Thank You New York for Holding Down a Front for Reproductive Rights

Despite a chaotic first 10 days of the new administration, New York did not take its eye off the reproductive rights ball.  First, the New York Assembly passed two important bills that protect access to reproductive health care.  Then, Governor Cuomo announced new regulations to do the same.
On January 17, the New York Assembly passed two bills critical for meeting New Yorkers’ reproductive health care needs. One is the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act of 2017 (CCCA), which we blogged when Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the bill. It would enshrine and enhance the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit in state law, protecting people’s access to affordable birth control even in the event that the benefit is repealed at the federal level. The same day, the Assembly also passed the Reproductive Health Act (RHA, AB 1748). The bill would codify the central holding of Roe v. Wade in New York state law, protecting women’s right and ability to access abortion in New York.
Advancing state protections for the right to abortion is vital as the President prepares to nominate Supreme Court justices who commit to overturning Roe v. Wade.

Assembly member Deborah Glick, sponsor of the RHA, stated in a news release that “[w]hile other states are passing draconian laws that would turn back the clock on women, New York must remain in the forefront by removing any unnecessary and unconstitutional burdens to exercising this right.” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie also directly cited the threat to federal reproductive rights protections we face under the new administration as an impetus for New York to update its 47-year old law: “Now more than ever, it is very clear that those federal protections are in jeopardy and that New York must uphold our legacy as a progressive leader by protecting the most fundamental right of women to make their own decisions regarding reproductive choice and family planning.”
The bill would honor the truism that the right to abortion means nothing without access. 
The bill also focuses on creating stronger legal protections for doctors who provide abortions. In doing so this bill recognizes that people’s ability to access abortion depends on a provider’s ability to work. Around the country, hospital policies and rules, as well as state civil and criminal laws, severely restrict abortion providers or deter altogether those who might provide abortion but don’t because of fear of employer or state retribution. The New York RHA pushes back against the national trend of restricting providers, stating affirmatively that licensed health care professionals may provide abortions according to their professional medical judgment, and removing the threat of criminal penalties for health care professionals who provide abortion. We need laws like the RHA, as well as comprehensive laws that protect abortion providers from discrimination, to ensure that health care professionals are able to provide their patients with the care most appropriate according to their medical judgment, without fear of legal or political repercussions.

And it’s not just the State Assembly that is stepping up for reproductive rights: Governor Cuomo is also requiring insurance companies to provide birth control and medically necessary abortions without cost sharing. 
On the heels of these Assembly bills, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced over Inauguration weekend that the State would take a series of regulatory actions to protect reproductive health care as part of a larger campaign for women’s rights in the Governor’s Office called “New York’s Promise to Women: Ever Upward.” The actions announced this weekend include a requirement that insurance companies cover birth control and medically necessary abortion without cost sharing and that insurance companies provide consumers with complete and accurate information about this coverage. Additionally, the regulations would prevent insurance companies from excluding non-surgical abortion from their health plans.

Thank you, New York, for standing up for people’s right to abortion and contraception care, and for the dignity and expertise of health care professionals who would provide it!