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Protect Privacy & Autonomy

Safeguarding Our Reproductive Rights

Assaults on reproductive rights at federal level and in states around the country are unrelenting. President Trump has appointed anti-abortion judges and gave the Supreme Court an anti-Roe majority. His administration has tried to roll back contraceptive coverage requirements at the federal level, and it established a domestic “gag rule” that denies crucial federal funding to health clinics that provide abortion care or refer patients to abortion providers. This regressive agenda has allies in many states; since 2011, anti-abortion politicians have passed over 400 restrictions, creating a web of barriers to safe and affordable abortion care.

In the face of this ruthless attack, New Yorkers came together and demanded our elected officials stand up for reproductive rights.

In January, just minutes after its passage from the state legislature, Governor Cuomo signed the Reproductive Health Act into law. This monumental win comes after years of advocacy by the NYCLU and our partners around the state. In addition, the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act was enacted that day. Together, these laws further cement New York’s reputation as a safe haven for reproductive rights in crucial ways:

  • The Reproductive Health Act moved regulation of abortion from the criminal homicide code into the public health law and allows people to get the care they need throughout pregnancy without leaving the state. It also protects the health professionals who provide this vital care by ensuring people can receive an abortion from various types of qualified medical professionals — including nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, and licensed midwives.
  • The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act addresses gaps in contraceptive coverage for New Yorkers, requiring insurers to cover any contraception that a health care provider recommends without a co-payment. The law also improves access to affordable and timely emergency contraception, while granting New Yorkers access to a year’s supply of contraception at one time, reducing the likelihood of an unintended pregnancy.

“Changing the law isn’t the last step. It’s actually just the beginning,” said Katharine Bodde, NYCLU senior policy counsel. “And now we are focused on implementation, on improving access to care now that the law provides a better pathway for it.”

Advocates have been working for over a decade to pass these bills, and our campaign brought the stories of patients who were denied abortion care in New York directly to lawmakers. With the installation of a new Senate majority — one finally willing to take up this issue and run with it — we were able to work with our advocacy partners and other allies to seize the momentum. The NYCLU filled a critical role as legal experts, offering thoughtful analysis and support that kept the strongest protections in the bills intact.

“We were able to move these bills forward because New Yorkers demanded a state that supports access to robust reproductive healthcare,” said Katharine Bodde, NYCLU’s senior policy counsel specializing in gender equality and reproductive rights issues. “Part of that is certainly due to our statewide influence. The NYCLU chapters are out in their communities providing information and organizing people to bring their voices on these issues to their representatives.”

The backlash has been extreme. Trump condemned the Reproductive Health Act in his 2019 State of the Union address. Opposition forces are using our success as a wedge issue ahead of the 2020 national elections, and challenges to regulations that require private insurers to cover medically necessary abortions are on the rise.

The NYCLU stands ready to protect these gains on behalf of New Yorkers and those who live outside our state and need a safe haven to receive care. When 45 percent of pregnancies in the United States are unintended, the Reproductive Health Act and the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act ensure that people can better plan their families and their futures.

Photo: Advocates and activists await the New York State Legislature’s vote on the historic Reproductive Health Act and Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act on January 22, the 46th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. New York’s old abortion law — drafted three years earlier in 1970 and left unchanged — criminalized abortion after 24 weeks, with no exceptions.

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In addition to these historic wins, New York lawmakers passed legislation to form a review board for the investigation of our state’s maternal mortality rate, a public health crisis with stark racial disparities. Read our statement about this legislation and learn more about our advocacy for the rights of pregnant and parenting people.