What is the Reproductive Health Act?
The Reproductive Health Act (RHA) is a bill that will update New York State’s outdated abortion laws, first passed in 1970. The RHA will codify in New York State law all the rights that are guaranteed by Roe v. Wade, ensuring that women have a fundamental right to control their own sexual and reproductive lives.
Why is New York’s current abortion law inadequate?
New York was the first state to legalize abortion in 1970-before Roe v. Wade was even decided. Legalizing abortion was a trailblazing move, but lawmakers haven’t updated those laws in 39 years. The current laws are outdated because they do not guarantee the right to an abortion if a woman’s health is in danger and treat abortion as a criminal matter, instead of as a health care decision.
What will the Reproductive Health Act do?
- guarantees a woman’s right to control her reproductive health;
- ensures that a woman will be able to have an abortion if her health is endangered;
- treats the regulation of abortion as an issue of public health and medical practice rather than as a potential crime
- guarantees everyone the right to use or refuse contraception.
Why does New York need the Reproductive Health Act?
Right now, we depend on Roe v. Wade to guarantee our reproductive rights. But the Supreme Court is only one justice away from having an anti-choice majority. Even with its current makeup, the Court has banned an abortion procedure, even if a woman’s health is in danger. The rights protected by Roe are so essential that they need to be written into state law.
How can New York reclaim our leadership on pro-choice legislation?
State legislatures across the country have enacted over 450 bills that would ban or restrict abortion, some of which are a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. All it takes is one of these challenges to reach the Supreme Court, and Roe could be overturned. Seven states have already passed laws like the Reproductive Health Act. New York needs to reclaim our rightful place as a pro-choice leader by passing this bill.
New Yorkers overwhelmingly support a woman’s right to decide when and whether to have a child. In fact, three-quarters of New York voters support the Reproductive Health Act-even after hearing arguments against the bill. The November 2008 elections brought a Democratic majority with pro-choice leadership to Albany. We must seize this opportunity to change New York’s abortion laws.
REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH ACT – QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Q. Do New Yorkers support this bill?
A. Yes. New Yorkers overwhelmingly support a woman’s right to decide when and whether to have a child. In fact, three-quarters of New York voters support the Reproductive Health Act — even after hearing arguments against the bill. This bill is a common-sense measure that represents New Yorkers’ values when it comes to a woman’s right to make her own fundamental reproductive health care decisions.
Q: Why do we need this law?
A: New York’s law is outdated and inadequate. After almost 40 years, times have changed but our state law still regulates abortion in the criminal code and lacks protections if a woman’s health is endangered. New York is not secure in relying on the federal protections provided by Roe. State legislatures across the country have enacted over 450 bills that would ban or restrict abortion, some of which are a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. All it takes is one of these challenges to reach the Supreme Court, and Roe could be overturned. Seven states (CA, CT, HI, ME, MD, NV, WA) have already passed laws like the Reproductive Health Act. New York needs to reclaim our rightful place as a pro-choice leader by passing this bill
Q: Who would be able to provide abortion services under this legislation?
A: : Only qualified medical practitioners with the necessary training to safely provide care to women in need of abortion would be able to provide abortions services. Just like any other medical procedure, practicing without a license or proper training could lead to medical misconduct charges.
Q: Why does the bill contain an exception for women’s health?
A: Some women experience serious health complications during pregnancy and, when faced withsuch medical crises, make hard decisions that are best for them and their families. Some health complications that can arise during pregnancy include, but are not limited to, dangerously high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and infertility. Every situation is different and it important that a woman’s doctor be able to use his or her best medical judgment to make the determination if a pregnant woman’s health is endangered by herpregnancy.
Q: Does this prevent the state from regulating the practice of abortion?
A: No. Just as it does now, the State would be able to regulate abortion in the same way it regulates the delivery of other health care services. This bill would properly prevent the state from imposing regulations on the provision of abortion that have no relation to health or safety.
Q: Does the legislation allow abortions to be performed at any stage of pregnancy, as claimed by the bill’s opponents?
A: The Reproductive Health Act protects a woman’s life and health throughout the course of pregnancy by ensuring that her physician can use his or her best medical judgment without government interference. The legislation would allow abortions up to the time of viability and after that point only if the woman’s life or health is in danger. Almost all abortions are performed in the first trimester, but sometimes women learn they are carrying a fetus with anomalies or experience pregnancy complications that place their life or health at risk. Women’s health is not a trivial matter and there is no evidence that women seek abortions for minor medical problems. We trust women and their families, in consultation with their physician, to make their own private medical decisions, and believe that politicians should not interfere with these deeply private and personal matters.
Q: Would this bill force doctors or religious hospitals to perform abortions or remove existing conscience protections, as opponents claim?
A: No. Existing conscience protections in New York law allow individuals and health care facilities, like Catholic hospitals, to refuse to provide abortions if they have religious or moral objections. This bill does not alter or remove those protections.
Q. What is the effect of removing regulation of abortion from the Criminal Code?
A: The criminal provisions in New York law are the legacy of a time before Roe, when abortion was illegal and women had to resort to back alley abortions. That is no longer the case. Abortion is legal, safe and accessible, and doctors shouldn’t have to worry about prosecution for providing them. Abortion should be regulated as a question of public health and medical practice, not as a crime.
Q: Would this bill prevent the prosecution of a criminal whose illegal act caused a pregnancy loss?
A: No. The loss of a wanted pregnancy is a tragic event for a woman. Criminal acts against women that result in termination of pregnancy could still be charged under numerous provisions of the criminal code, including assault and unauthorized practice of medicine. Additionally, this bill appropriately stiffens available penalties for criminal acts against pregnant women that result in pregnancy loss by including pregnancy loss in the definition of “serious physical injury.” It is already a crime to assault a person, pregnant or not; this legislation would ensure that criminal acts that cause a loss of pregnancy are punished appropriately.
Q: How does this bill impact the Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Carhart and the federal abortion ban?
A: The Supreme Court ruled that the federal ban on an abortion procedure can be enforced, even though it does not contain an exception to preserve a woman’s health. This bill cannot override that decision, but it does mean that as a matter of New York State laws and regulations, women’s health will always be protected.
GET INVOLVED! Engage your local community by getting petitions signed, hosting events, posting videos, more…contact:
Lalena Howard, MSW
NARAL Pro-Choice New York
STAY-TUNED FOR ADDITIONAL PARADIGM SHIFT EVENTS/ACTIONS/VIDEOS ON THE REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS & THE REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH ACT
Paradigm Shift hosted several related events:
• 11/2/09- NARAL’s Pro-Choice Election Phone Banks- Co-sponsored by Paradigm Shift
• 9/23/09- “Fight for Your Reproductive Rights: How You Can Help Pass the Reproductive Health Act” co-sponsored by NYCLU, featuring Corinne Carey, Interim director, Reproductive Rights Project, New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), Rev. Matthew Westfox, National Coordinator for Field Services at Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice & Associate, Pastor at All Souls Bethlehem Church, Dr. Carol Roye, EdD, RN, CPNP, researcher in reproductive health, Jenn Proulx, Filmmaker of “Another New Yorker for the Reproductive Health Act”.
• 1/21/09- Roe vs. Wade Anniversary documentary screening of “I Had An Abortion” and discussion with Jennifer Baumgardner, Activist, Author, Filmmaker, Gillian Aldrich, Filmmaker, and women featured in the film. Portion of proceeds to NY Abortion Access Fund.
• 12/7/07- Abortion Speak Out and Open Mic
Upcoming related parter events and videos:
Partner Event: Feminists Fight Back Against Attacks on Reproductive Rights
Jennifer Baumgardner speaks about book ‘Abortion and Life’
Anti-Stupak/Pitts Amendment NYC Rally & Video
Dan Savage and Amy Richards on Abortion Rights and Feminism