March 25, 2015

Assembly Fights for Reproductive Justice, Intends to Pass Bill Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Services

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New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Deborah Glick today announced the Assembly intends to pass a bill that guarantees New York State will protect access to women's reproductive health services, as established by the United States Supreme Court in the decision Roe v. Wade (A.6221). New York's abortion rights law, the first in the country, was enacted in 1970, three years prior to Roe v. Wade, and lacks the health exception as required by Roe.

"Reproductive rights are a fundamental component of the fight for women's equality. When a woman is denied the ability to make reproductive health decisions, she is statistically more likely to find herself unemployed, on public assistance and below the poverty line," said Speaker Heastie. "We have listened to the women members of this conference and we have listened to the women of New York. The Assembly Majority believes women should be allowed to make the best choices for themselves and their families. The Supreme Court stood up for women in Roe v. Wade more than 40 years ago, have reaffirmed their decision in subsequent cases, and now it is our turn to do the same."

"New York has protected a woman's right to choose since 1970," said Assemblymember Glick. "Federal protections have been in place since 1973, covering the life and health of women. It is necessary to make these laws consistent and codify Roe v. Wade in NYS law."

Abortion care is central to the ability of women to participate equally in society and is a vital part of comprehensive women's health care. However, New York law lacks critical protections for women's health. This bill codifies into state law the reproductive rights women have had under federal law since 1973, ensuring that a woman in New York can get an abortion within 24 weeks of pregnancy, or when necessary, as determined by appropriate medical judgment, to protect her life or health.

The bill does not change or alter existing state and federal laws that permit a health care provider or institution to refrain from providing an abortion based on religious or moral beliefs. Also, it does not expand the class of individuals who may perform an abortion, nor does it alter the current federal ban on partial birth abortion.

Women often seek abortion information and services for the same reason people seek access to affordable contraception: because they are not medically, emotionally or financially able to have a child. Women may wish to avoid unintended pregnancies in cases when having a baby would compromise their economic autonomy or prevent them from finishing school, keeping a job or support their current families. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco found that women who seek to terminate a pregnancy, but are turned away from abortion services, are three times more likely to fall below the poverty line within the subsequent two years than women who are able to access such services. The study also found that women who are denied an abortion are more likely to stay in a relationship with an abusive partner than women who have access to abortion services.

Tracey M. Brooks, president and CEO of Family Planning Advocates, said "We can't fully address women's inequality by ignoring reproductive health care because that means ignoring basic health care. Women are the backbone of this state, providing half our workforce and raising our next generation, but without the ability to plan pregnancy and protect their health, women's futures are uncertain, whether at home, on the job or at school. Every woman in New York State must be assured of access to safe and legal abortion."

Andrea Miller, president of NARAL Pro-Choice New York, said "In an era of pernicious and escalating attacks on a woman's right and ability to access reproductive health care -- especially abortion -- the Assembly deserves applause for passing this bold and timely legislation, which will ensure that our health is safeguarded now and that our rights are secure, no matter what the future may hold."

Corinne Carey, co-chair of the New York Women's Equality Coalition, said "Today a critical mass of New York's Assembly representatives put politics aside, reached across the aisle and stood on the right side of history by supporting basic bodily autonomy and equality for all New Yorkers. Protecting women's health shouldn't be controversial. We applaud the Assembly for knowing that."