MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT:
The Reproductive Health Act S.240/A.21
AN ACT to amend the public health law, in relation to enacting the reproductive health act and revising existing provisions of law regarding abortion; to amend the penal law, the criminal procedure law, the county law and the judiciary law, in relation to abortion; to repeal certain provisions of the public health law relating to abortion; to repeal certain provisions of the education law relating to the sale of contraceptives; and to repeal certain provisions of the penal law relating to abortion.
The National Organization for Women – New York strongly supports the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), legislation that will safeguard women’s reproductive health and make the protections of Roe v. Wade the law of our state. This legislation would ensure every woman’s fundamental right to make private medical decisions with her doctor and would protect both a woman’s health and life throughout pregnancy.
Why We Need the Reproductive Health Act:
It puts abortion into our public health law, where it belongs. New York’s abortion law pre-dates Roe, so abortion is currently regulated within our criminal laws. This doesn’t make sense for women or their doctors. RHA will take the regulation of abortion out of the criminal code and put it into our public health law, making sure the focus is on women’s health.
Written almost 50 years ago, New York’s abortion law fails to adequately protect the health and rights of New Yorkers. By regulating abortion in our criminal laws, our current law clearly doesn’t meet the constitutional standard of Roe and is out of step with modern medical realities. It’s critical that abortion – which is needed medical care – is no longer treated as a crime in our state laws. Current law has resulted in unneeded delays and denials of care and has even forced New Yorkers to seek care out of state. Women must be able to make health decisions about their pregnancy with their health care providers, without interference from politicians or under threat of criminal penalty.
It protects women’s health throughout their pregnancy.
RHA makes Roe v. Wade’s protections explicit in our state law, ensuring that abortion is legal throughout a pregnancy in cases of non-viability or when the life or health of the woman is at risk. Notably, it would fix a dangerous gap in our current law, which prohibits providing abortion care to a woman if serious complications arise later in her pregnancy. Critically ill pregnant women would no longer be forced to leave New York in order to get the safe, legal abortion care they need.
It ensures access for women across the state, regardless of their background, income, or place of residence. RHA allows advanced practice care clinicians to administer abortion care, enabling women in both urban and rural areas to access treatment in their own home state of New York and providing access for New York’s most vulnerable populations.
The practice of medicine has changed significantly since 1970, when our last abortion law was written. New York’s laws should reflect the reality that patients seek care from various types of modern medical professionals, like nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, and licensed midwives. Empowering these clinicians to provide abortion will help to ensure broader access. This is especially important for low-income women, women of color, and women who live in areas of our state with limited access to medical professionals. The state will still govern which practitioners provide abortion, and the RHA will not change how medical practice is regulated or delivered.
In the face of relentless attacks on our access to reproductive health across the country, it is critical that New York seizes the opportunity this session to once again, make our state a national leader for reproductive rights. Passing this legislation will not only preserve reproductive rights for New York women, but it will serve as a strong model for states across the country, ensuring that New York remains a safe haven for women. Every woman has the right to make the best healthcare decisions for herself, her family, and her future.