Assemblymember Steck Passes Legislation to Bolster Women’s Reproductive Rights

Assemblymember Phil Steck (D-Colonie) announced that he helped pass legislation to reaffirm women’s reproductive rights in New York State. After years of failing to even come up for a vote in the state Senate, these measures are expected to be passed and signed into law.

“Since Roe v. Wade became law nearly 50 years ago, the ruling has been systemically undermined by those who want to tell women what they can do with their own bodies,” said Steck. “In New York, that ends today. We won’t allow the federal administration’s assault on women’s rights to change our values or hurt our families.”

The first bill – known as the Reproductive Health Act – codifies the federal protections established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade (A.21). Specifically, the bill would allow licensed health care practitioners to terminate a pregnancy within 24 weeks, when there is an absence of fetus viability or when the woman’s life or health is endangered.  This is not an expansion of Roe v. Wade which specifically said: “If the State is interested in protecting fetal life after viability, it may go so far as to proscribe abortion during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother.” 

Neither New York law nor Roe v. Wade defines the word “health.”  Physicians determine what medical conditions require abortion to preserve the health of the mother, subject to regulations governing the practice of medicine in the Public Health Law.  It is not up to the Legislature to define the thousands of possible situations that could arise that might pose a threat to the health of the mother.  The bill removes the regulation of abortion from the Penal Law and places it in the Public Health Law.  The Penal Law never defined the circumstances when a legal abortion could be performed in order to preserve the life or health of the mother since the Penal Law provision predated Roe v. Wade.

Steck also helped pass the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which requires health insurers to provide cost-free coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptives when they’re prescribed by a health care provider (A.585-A). The measure ensures New York’s compliance with an Affordable Care Act provision, noted Steck.

The Assembly also passed legislation prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health decisions (A.584). The bill also prevents employers from accessing their employees’ private medical information without prior informed, written consent.

“This legislation will ensure that neither bureaucrats nor partisan ideologues have a say in a woman’s reproductive health,” said Steck. “These are private health care decisions made in consultation with a physician, and that’s the way they should always remain, subject of course to the rules and regulations already governing correct medical conduct.”

Under current New York law, certain medical abortions that do not require surgery may be conducted by qualified allied medical personnel whose scope of practice allows them to do so.  However, the law preserves the requirement that only a physician may perform a surgical abortion procedure and only in a facility approved by the State where surgical procedures may be carried out.