July 10, 2018

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie: New Yorkers need us
To take the Lead Once Again

In 1970, the New York State Legislature proved to the nation that it was a progressive champion for women's reproductive rights by legalizing abortion for all New York residents and non-residents - three years before the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision. The court's decision made abortion access a fundamental right for all women and expanded on New York's 1970 legislation by ensuring every woman has access to a safe, legal abortion at any stage of pregnancy to protect her life and health. Now more than ever, we know these federal protections are in grave danger. And without Roe v. Wade, women in New York would be dependent on state laws to protect their reproductive rights, highlighting a dire need to update these laws.

Without the protections of Roe v. Wade, women in New York would be left with outdated laws that still criminalize third trimester abortions, with very limited exceptions. The New York State Assembly, and every other progressive leader, knows that every woman deserves the right to determine the course of her pregnancy and her reproductive health. These decisions are personal and complex. That is why we have repeatedly passed legislation to ensure women have access to cost-free contraception and that their reproductive decisions are kept private from their employers. We also believe that women's reproductive health issues belong in the public health code, not the penal code. In turn, we have fought tirelessly for years to update our laws and codify the protections of Roe v. Wade into New York State Law.

Since 2013, the New York State Assembly has passed legislation to codify Roe v. Wade into New York State law six times. Year after year, we have been told by the Senate Majority that this legislation is unnecessary. Roe v. Wade isn't going anywhere they told us. Even after the constant attacks by the Trump administration on women's reproductive rights, they have continuously refused to vote on the bill. So year after year, New York women are left vulnerable and we are left wondering why our colleagues don't value women's self-determination or respect their ability to make their own health care choices.

There may have once been a time when we felt comfortable with the protections Roe v. Wade offered. But that time has passed, and now these fundamental rights are threatened like never before. We cannot afford to take this right for granted. New York has led the charge on many critical issues: same sex marriage, sensible gun legislation, fair minimum wages, and paid family leave - just to name a few. This is not a time when we can afford to fall behind. Women in New York are counting on us to do the right thing.

President Trump campaigned on a promise to appoint anti-choice Supreme Court justices in hopes of undermining and even overturning Roe v. Wade. With the loss of Justice Kennedy and the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, women are closer than they have ever been to losing access to safe, legal abortions. The loss of these critical protections would have real consequences with lasting effects for women for generations to come. This regressive administration is testing New York's legacy as a progressive leader, and the time to act is now.