Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman: Your body, Your Choice

Assembly has never let up in long fight for women’s reproductive rights

Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D-29) announced she helped pass legislation to protect and strengthen women’s reproductive rights. The measures affirm a woman’s right to choose in New York State, require insurers to cover cost-free contraception and prohibit discrimination against employees based on reproductive health choices (A.21, A.585-A, A.584). For years, the Assembly has passed reproductive rights legislation in the ongoing fight for full women’s equality only to have the measures rejected by the state Senate. But with new Senate leadership that recognizes that reproductive rights are human rights and are essential to a woman’s health, safety, opportunity and economic security, the long-overdue measures are set to become law.

“A woman’s body is her own, and politicians have absolutely no place interfering in her reproductive choices,” said the Assemblywoman. “The idea that a woman is not capable of making her own health care decisions is simply ridiculous and is grounded in misogyny, sexism and inequality. These measures not only help ensure reproductive freedom, but also help ensure a woman has control over her own future.”

A woman’s constitutional right to choose was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade 46 years ago, but the war on women has continued in full force since then. States all over the country are enacting laws that heavily regulate abortion or require women to jump through hoops to receive one. Eighteen states require women be given counseling before the procedure, and 27 states require a waiting period before the procedure can be performed.1 Now, with a White House with a dismal record on reproductive rights and a conservative Supreme Court, the threat to overturn Roe v. Wade is even more real. Assemblywoman Hyndman noted that there’s no time to waste in protecting this constitutional right for New York women.

The Assembly legislation, known as the Reproductive Health Act, codifies the federal protections of Roe v. Wade into New York State law. The bill would authorize duly licensed health care practitioners to terminate a pregnancy within 24 weeks, when there is an absence of fetal viability or when the woman’s life or health are endangered (A.21). By passing this legislation yet again, the Assembly is preemptively fighting back against the alarming possibility of Roe being overturned. This legislation emphasizes that the goal of public health policy should be access to quality health care, not to place restrictions and undue burdens on patients and providers.

The Assembly also once again passed the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (CCCA), which would codify the requirement under the Affordable Care Act that health insurers provide cost-free coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptives when they are prescribed by a health care provider (A.585-A). This legislation clarifies that health insurers are prohibited from charging a deductible, coinsurance or copays for contraception and are barred from imposing any restrictions or delays with respect to such coverage. Birth control pills not only allow a woman to decide if and when she wants to start a family, but are also used to treat and prevent a host of medical conditions, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and anemia, and can lower a woman’s risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers.2 Further, access to affordable contraception has been shown to decrease the number of unplanned pregnancies, improve women’s health and financial security and lower rates of maternal and infant mortality.3

Additionally, legislation was passed prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees based on their or their dependent’s reproductive health decisions. It also bars employers from accessing private medical information about their employees without the employee’s prior informed, written consent (A.584).

The Assembly has consistently passed the legislation after the chain store Hobby Lobby challenged the federal requirement to cover birth control methods through health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act, and in the process, some loopholes came to light concerning employees’ right to privacy. Assemblywoman Hyndman noted that reproductive health decisions are none of a boss’ business, and that this measure protects an employee’s freedom to make decisions without fear of retaliation.

“It’s been almost 100 years since women gained the right to vote and 46 years since the right to choose was affirmed, yet here we are still fighting for equality,” said Assemblywoman Hyndman. “With these long-overdue measures finally set to become law, we’re taking an important step forward and sending a clear message that women’s rights should never be up for debate.”