On January 22, New York acted to protect patients who need a range of care during pregnancy, including abortion, by passing the Reproductive Health Act. This law ensures that people in New York can safely seek the full range of care that they need throughout every stage of pregnancy. It means that when a patient experiences serious complications later in pregnancy, her health care providers can treat her with the best and safest care based on her specific medical circumstances, without medically unnecessary requirements or political interference.
But many anti-abortion organizations and advocates – and even President Trump – are using inflammatory language to misrepresent the NY Reproductive Health Act, creating a fake controversy intended to shame and stigmatize both those who need abortions and their health care providers. What’s more, this misleading rhetoric about the NY Reproductive Health Act is being manipulated to raise opposition to bills in other states that would protect patient health.
People who have needed abortion care later in pregnancy are speaking out in response to these egregious mischaracterizations of bills that protect patient health, asking lawmakers to have the compassion to hear their stories. It is crucial for women’s health that the public and lawmakers listen to the women who have needed abortion care, instead of letting themselves be misled by cruel and inaccurate rhetoric intended to stigmatize people who have abortion at all costs.
The NY Reproductive Health Act means doctors can treat patients with the best medical care
Before the NY Reproductive Health Act, a woman in New York who faced complications later in pregnancy was forced to make decisions about her health that may not have been what she or her provider wanted. People who needed abortion care had to travel out of state to obtain health care that they should have been able to access at home from their own provider. For example, Erika Christensen was pregnant and living in New York when she faced a devastating fetal diagnosis later in pregnancy. She and her doctor knew that her best option was an abortion, but because of New York law, Erika had to fly to across the country in order to receive care. Many others have also faced difficult complications later in pregnancy and could not access treatment in New York. Those who cannot meet the cost and burden of travel, which can be enormous, face potentially life-threatening consequences.
The NY Reproductive Health Act will change that. Now women like Erika and their providers have available to them the full range of medical treatment options – including c-section, induction, or abortion. And they can make the decision that is right for them, based on what’s best for those specific medical circumstances. The Reproductive Health Act also enables licensed, qualified non-physician clinicians to provide abortion earlier in pregnancy. And it removes the threat of criminal prosecution for health care providers by moving abortion from the criminal code to the public health code. It also repeals an outdated and unconstitutional law that criminalized women who try to end a pregnancy on their own.
All in all, this is a law that is about protecting and trusting women and the decisions they make, and ensuring that health care providers are not punished for or deterred from properly caring for their patients.
Opponents of abortion are using this faux controversy to mislead people about bills in other states
In Virginia, HB 2491,which would repeal several medically unnecessary requirements on abortion providers and those seeking abortion, is similarly being misrepresented. Under current law, in order for someone with pregnancy complications to receive an abortion later in pregnancy, a doctor has to get two additional doctors to certify that she is at risk for death or that her mental or physical health is “substantially and irremediably” at risk. Virginia’s bill would repeal these burdensome, unnecessary requirements, putting trust back where it belongs: with women and their health care providers.
Laws that place medically unnecessary requirements on abortion providers, like those currently in effect in Virginia, are intended to shame and block people seeking abortion and their providers. These laws harm women. Virginia’s bill would be an enormous step forward to remove some of the unnecessary and stigmatizing barriers facing people who need abortion care.
Lawmakers should not be fooled by misleading rhetoric
Bills like the NY Reproductive Health Act and Virginia’s HB 2491 are about making sure that a patient’s health and a provider’s medical expertise drive medical decision-making at every point in pregnancy. Make no mistake—those who are speaking out against these bills don’t have women’s interests in mind. They are purposefully misrepresenting what these bills would do in order to stoke fake outrage. Lawmakers should not be fooled by sensationalized anti-abortion responses to measures that improve access to abortion and support women who experience complications later in pregnancy. Patients’ health and dignity should never be compromised by political interference.
We urge lawmakers to reject the misleading rhetoric being spun by those whose true motives are to ban abortion completely. Instead, side with women who need compassionate, medically informed care at all stages of pregnancy, and with the doctors and nurses who are dedicated to providing that care to their patients.