New York’s Legislative Body Stands with Women’s Bodies

Cartoon by Emma Hines.

On the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, New York State enacted new, strong legal protections for abortion rights empowering women whose rights are under daily threat from the current administration. The Reproductive Health Act (RHA) is the first update to abortion laws since 1970, three years prior to the Supreme Court decision.

The new law permits late-term abortions in such cases if the pregnancy poses a health threat to the woman or if the fetus is no longer viable, and moves laws dealing with abortions from the penal code to the health statutes of state law. It also includes provisions that grant easier access for women seeking abortions in state.

We at The New Paltz Oracle are proud to represent a state that safeguards women’s rights in an era where they are subject to constant threat nationwide. Furthermore, we believe it is always and only a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body.

The passage of this law comes partly as a reaction to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in October. Pro-life voters hope Kavanaugh will provide the fifth vote on a court decision to overturn or weaken Roe v. Wade. The Center for Reproductive Rights warned that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, 22 states are likely to ban abortion outright.

New York, however, along with several other states such as California, Washington and Oregon have put protections in their state statutes to ensure abortion access remains in place in the event that the Supreme Court does reverse or weaken the 1973 decision.

In addition to the RHA, the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (CCCA) and the Boss Act have also passed and have been signed into law by Cuomo.

According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, the CCCA ensures timely and affordable access to contraception by requiring insurers to cover contraception that is right for the individual patient without a co-payment, and allow for access to a year’s supply of contraception. It will also improve timely and affordable access for women in need of emergency contraception.

The Boss Act limits what employers can do and update New York’s existing workplace anti-discrimination laws to prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee on the basis of their reproductive health-care decisions.

We at The Oracle commend New York for signing RHA, the CCCA and the Boss Act in order to ensure that women’s rights are preserved at the state level even if they are not supported federally.

In response to the State of the Union address, Planned Parenthood Mid-Hudson Valley President and CEO Ruth-Ellen Blodgett released a statement clarifying that there is no such thing as abortion during labor and delivery.

“Planned Parenthood of Mid-Hudson Valley stands behind patients and families who face heart-wrenching pregnancy complications and will always advocate for safe, legal abortion,” she said.

Nationwide, the vast majority of abortions take place in the first trimester. According to the New York State Department of Health, 285,127 induced abortions occurred in the state between 2012 and 2014 and the average number of live births for the same three years was 237,499.

Locally, we are severely lacking options for women facing this difficult decision. Currently, a woman seeking an abortion in New Paltz would have to travel all the way to Poughkeepsie in order to have the procedure.

In a town with a large student population, it is imperative that options are provided for pregnant women. Furthermore, it is the community’s responsibility to prevent the spread of misinformation and fear regarding reproductive healthcare.

Women who elect to have late-term abortions do not make these decisions lightly and it is almost never the result of simply not wanting to have a child. Regardless, every pregnancy is unique and physicians are responsible to make the best clinical judgment to determine whether terminating the pregnancy is in the best interest of the patient.

We believe it is up to a woman, her family and medical professionals to make a decision whether or not to continue a pregnancy — not politicians. The fight for reproductive healthcare rights is far from over and this package of laws is just a small but crucial step toward progress.