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Op-Ed: Scare Tactics Seek to Undermine Proposed State Law (Buffalo News)

By Corinne Carey — Since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, generations of women have benefited from the right to make one of life’s most important and personal decisions — whether or when to have a child — without government interference.

Most New Yorkers don’t realize that our state’s laws do not affirmatively protect this fundamental right; we rely on Roe for that protection. In fact, New York law still treats abortion as a crime and does not safeguard women who need abortions to protect their health in the last trimester of pregnancy.

Recent Supreme Court decisions weakened Roe’s protections of reproductive freedom. Although we now have a pro-choice president, the balance of the Supreme Court is unlikely to change soon. And states around the country have passed laws directly challenging Roe. If even one of these laws is brought to court, we are all at risk.

The Reproductive Health Act (RHA) would modernize New York’s laws and protect our rights. It regulates family planning as a public health issue rather than a crime, and ensures that if continuing a pregnancy jeopardizes a woman’s health, she has safe, legal options.

Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith calls passing RHA a priority. Health Commissioner Richard Daines has affirmed Gov. David A. Paterson’s support of the bill. The Assembly is an established champion of reproductive freedom. So what are we waiting for?

This month, flyers replete with misinformation and scare tactics were distributed to parishes throughout the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. Though they’re entitled to their opinion, abortion opponents should not distort the facts to promote their agenda. It’s time to correct the record.

First, the bill specifies that only licensed and appropriately trained health care providers may perform abortions. Violators would face stiff penalties, including loss of license. This should put to rest the preposterous claim that RHA would allow podiatrists, dentists and social workers to perform abortions.

Second, this bill preserves state and federal protections for health care providers with moral or religious objections to abortion. It does not require Catholic hospitals to provide abortions, as opponents claim.

Finally, this bill will not increase “late term” abortions. The small fraction of abortions that occur after the second trimester are desired pregnancies that go terribly wrong — where the fetus has a fatal condition, or the woman’s health is seriously jeopardized.

Ultimately, the bill is about more than abortion or contraception. It’s about autonomy, privacy and dignity. It is about supporting healthy families. It is about health care policy that respects our ability to make decisions.

Our legislators need to hear from us — the majority of New Yorkers — who believe in these fundamental principals. Otherwise the rights we have taken for granted for so long may disappear.

Corinne Carey is public policy counsel for the New York Civil Liberties Union.

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