Eric Schneiderman on Women’s Rights: In His Own Words

By Austin Ramzy
May 8, 2018
Before his abrupt resignation Monday after four women accused him of physical assault, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman of New York cultivated an image as an advocate for women.
Here are some of his own recent comments about gender equality, abortion rights, and sexual harassment and assault.
Violence against women ‘prevalent and dangerous’
On the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act in 2014, Mr. Schneiderman said that despite legislation, threats to women’s physical safety remained a problem across the country.
He said in a written statement:
“Twenty years ago today, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Violence Against Women Act, a major milestone in our nation’s efforts to prevent violence against women and help the victims of such reprehensible acts. But two decades later, despite the significant protections established under VAWA, recent events have shone necessary light on the fact that violence against women remains a prevalent and dangerous problem across our nation. Basic safety is not a privilege: It is a fundamental right. Protecting all Americans from harm, regardless of their relationship to their abuser or their gender, is and will remain one of the most important aspects of our ongoing pursuit of equal justice under law.”
Support for victims of domestic violence
Mr. Schneiderman’s office published a brochure to inform victims of domestic violence of their rights under state and federal law.
In announcing an updated brochure in 2016, he said:
“We’ve made tremendous progress protecting victims of domestic violence through enhanced legal protections and enforcement actions. Yet this month, we must recognize that our work keeping New Yorkers safe from domestic violence is far from over.
“We know that domestic violence victims are often some of the most vulnerable residents of our state. Our hope is that our enforcement actions, as well as our education and outreach efforts, will assist domestic violence victims to escape the violence they face at the hands of their abusers and assist them in building safe, productive lives.”
Honored for abortion rights advocacy
On May 1, Mr. Schneiderman was honored by the National Institute for Reproductive Health at its annual Champions of Choice luncheon. “If a woman cannot control her body, she is not truly equal,” he said.
He added:
“The federal government has been taken over by anti-choice and anti-women extremists. We need to reimagine the pro-choice movement and build a stronger, louder movement for women’s freedom and equality than we’ve ever seen. Movement politics is not the politics of accommodation, it is the politics of perseverance.”
Health care cuts ‘oppress and disempower women’
Mr. Schneiderman was a vocal supporter of the Affordable Care Act, and he saw his defense of President Obama’s policy to expand health care coverage as a protection of women’s rights.
He told GQ magazine last year:
“It’s important to keep in mind that in one respect the health care fight is part of a wider effort by radical conservatives to oppress and disempower women. Denying women access to contraception and abortion services is a critical part of the larger machinery of oppression, discrimination, and violence against women and it’s incumbent on all of us to fight.”
Pursuit of Harvey Weinstein
After the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of women, Mr. Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against Mr. Weinstein, his brother, Bob, and their studio. “We have never seen anything as despicable as what we’ve seen right here,” Mr. Schneiderman said in announcing the civil rights suit.
He said at a news conference:
“Our investigation uncovered a pervasive pattern of sexual harassment, intimidation, discrimination and abuse at the Weinstein Company. Women were coerced into facilitating Harvey Weinstein’s misconduct. Sometimes they were targets themselves. If they refused they were threatened with insults. Their careers were threatened. They were threatened with physical intimidation and violence.”
He added:
“The board and management knew all of this. They knew how pervasive it was, and not only did they fail to stop it, they enabled it and covered it up.”
Praise for reporting that inspired #MeToo
Last month, after Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of the The New York Times and Ronan Farrow of The New Yorker were awarded the Pulitzer Prize in public service for their reporting on Harvey Weinstein, Mr. Schneiderman praised their work in a tweet.
Without such reporting, “and the brave women and men who spoke up about the sexual harassment they endured at the hands of powerful men — there would not be the critical national reckoning underway,” he wrote.