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Pro-choice advocates cheer Reproductive Health Law

January 24, 2019 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Pro-choice advocates expressed joy and relief at the passage of the Reproductive Health Act in the state Legislature, while pro-life supporters lamented the new law codifying the protections contained in Roe v. Wade.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Reproductive Health Act into law almost immediately after the bill’s passage on Tuesday, the 46th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision allowing abortion.

Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City, called the passage of the RHA a historic day.

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“With passage of the Reproductive Health Act, New York can finally grow to be a model of what sexual and reproductive health care should be, especially with mounting attacks on our health and rights from Washington. This is a historic day in New York and we are thrilled to see our legislation catch up with our progressive values in building the state our communities can thrive in,” McQuade said in a statement.

The RHA includes the following provisions:

  • It moves abortion from the state’s criminal law to its public health law.
  • It incorporates the protections of Roe v. Wade into New York state law and ensures that New Yorkers can access care throughout a pregnancy when their health or life is endangered, or if the pregnancy is not viable.
  • It clarifies that trained health care providers acting within their scope of practice can provide abortion care.

Planned Parenthood New York said the latter provision is crucial, because it ensures that New Yorkers will have access to early and safe abortions.

“Abortion is health care, not a crime,” said Dr. Oxiris Barbot, New York City’s health commissioner. “Women have a fundamental right to manage their reproductive health, including access to comprehensive health services, education and contraception, as well as safe abortions.”

Cuomo had vowed to work with the legislature to codify Roe v. Wade in state law to combat any effort by the Trump administration to overturn or chip away at the 1973 Supreme Court ruling.

The governor talked about his plans during a visit to Dyker Heights in July, when he warned pro-choice supporters that there was nothing in state law protecting abortion rights in the event the right-leaning Supreme Court decided to overturn Roe V. Wade.

“With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body,” Cuomo said at the bill signing ceremony.

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem said reproductive freedom is essential. “A woman’s power to decide whether she will give birth or not is the single greatest determinant of whether she is healthy or not, educated or not, works outside the home or not, and how long she will live,” she said in a statement.

The RHA is important, Steinem said. “It will codify Roe v. Wade in New York state law, guarantee women’s right to make decisions about our own bodies and help create a future in which every child has the right to be born loved and wanted,” she said.

Two of the Brooklyn lawmakers who voted for the RHA said the new law is important to women’s independence.

“A woman’s body is her own, and politicians have absolutely no place interfering in her reproductive choices,” said Assemblymember Jaime Williams (D-Canarsie- Georgetown- Mill Basin.) “The idea that a woman is not capable of making her own health care decisions is simply ridiculous and is grounded in misogyny, sexism and inequality.”

Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte (D-Flatbush- East Flatbush-Ditmas Park) said women have had a long fight to gain their reproductive freedom.

“Since the beginnings of this country, it has been a struggle for women to gain the right to agency that is due to them. The Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade was a major achievement after a long history of paternalistic regulations that sought to control women’s authority over their own bodies. I voted for this bill because I think it is yet another achievement that rightfully swings pendulum back to women deciding for themselves,” she said.

But Republican Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis, who represents parts of Bay Ridge and Staten Island, criticized the RHA and charged that Cuomo isn’t telling the full story.

“This bill does not simply codify Roe v. Wade. It allows for abortion to take place up until birth, removes the requirement that doctors performs them and that a second practitioner be present during late term abortions in case a live birth occurs. Furthermore, this bill eliminates criminal penalties where domestic violence or assault may lead to the loss of an unborn baby,” Malliotakis said.

The New York State Right to Life Committee posted a position paper on its website years ago charging that the RHA would “impose an extreme abortion agenda on all New Yorkers.”

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