EP-1: Without Roe, are Abortion Rights in Danger in NY?

September 15, 2022

 

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We discuss abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and nearly half of U.S. states moving to totally ban abortion.

Access to abortion and other reproductive care was already nonexistent in many parts of the country – and even in New York, some people still struggle to get the care they need. After the leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court striking down Roe, New York state legislators took action to increase funding and access to abortion.  

Then, after the final opinion was released, Gov. Hochul called a special session to pass a bill calling for an equal rights amendment – which among many other things – would protect the right to abortion in the state constitution.  

We talk about what got done and what is still left to do.


Guests:

Gabriella Larios
NYCLU Equal Justice Works Fellow

Lee Rowland
NYCLU Policy Director


Episode Resources

Episode Transcript

A.Episode Transcript

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[00:00:00] Simon: Welcome to Rights This Way, a podcast from the New York Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of New York State. I'm Simon McCormack, Senior Staff Writer at the NYCLU, and your host for this podcast, which is focused on the civil rights and liberties issues that impact New Yorkers most.

Today, we're gonna talk about abortion rights in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and nearly half of US states moving to totally ban abortion. Many of the brutal consequences of this ruling are already happening, like when a 10-year-old rape survivor was forced to travel from Ohio to Indiana to get an abortion. Then there are women and pregnant people with ectopic pregnancies whose lives could now be at risk. These types of pregnancies have no chance of surviving, and if they are not ended, they are fatal for the mother. These are the most extreme examples, but we have to remember that every day, in numerous states, people who are pregnant, who need to get an abortion, are being forced to carry their pregnancies against their will.

This undermines their lives, their wellbeing, and the wellbeing of their families. Access to abortion and other reproductive care was already nonexistent in many parts of the country. And even in New York, some people still struggle to get the care they need. After the leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court striking down Roe, New York State legislators took action to increase funding and access to abortion.

Then, after the final opinion was released, Governor Hochul called a special session to pass a bill calling for an equal rights amendment, which, among many other things, would protect the right to abortion in the state constitution. We'll talk about what got done, what's still left to do, and how New Yorkers can get involved in this historic fight. And you can get more information on all of this at NYAbortionAccess.org. 

First off, to get a sense of where things stand I'm joined by two guests: Lee Roland is the NYCLU's Policy Director, and Gabriela Larios is the NYCLU's Equal Justice Works fellow. Lee, Gaby, thank you for joining us on Rights This Way.

[00:02:16] Lee: Thank you, Simon. Hi.

[00:02:18] Gaby: Excited to talk to you. Thanks.

[00:02:20] Simon: I wanna start, um, Lee with you here. Could you just kinda lay out in broad terms what happened in New York from the time that the draft decision was leaked until now? So what did legislators accomplish and where are we now?

[00:02:37] Lee: Well, uh, unsurprisingly, this is a huge moment, right? Uh, we've seen our rights diminish in a pretty shocking and sudden way, uh, at the federal level. And in some ways, if there's any silver lining here and, and I'm not sure there is frankly, but one of them is that the New York Legislature was still in session. Our state legislature basically tends to be in session for six months a year between about January and June. So when the draft opinion in Dobbs dropped, legislators were in place, right, were galvanized by that opinion, and began to do some work while they were still in session to respond immediately to the threat of the loss of our federal abortion rights.

And that's something we'll continue working with them on, um, both now and when they come back into session next year, to make sure that we are responding to all the threats to abortion care specifically. But as I mentioned, we know that the theories that animated the Dobbs opinion, um, and getting rid of a federal abortion right, are also animating forces that are hostile to other equality rights.

And, uh, in addition, the kind of general concept that we in New York have a state constitution that can provide many of the rights that the federal constitution is silent on, or where the Supreme Court has interpreted them not to apply to people with uteruses, for example, and well beyond. So I'm delighted to say that the legislature didn't stop just at a packet of laws – um, which they've passed and good for them.

But they also passed for the first time – um, and I can explain the process a little bit more – but a proposed constitutional amendment that will go before the voters in the next couple of years, very likely in 2024 during the presidential election. And if that passes a second time and goes before the voters, what it would ask New York voters to do is really, uh, a well overdue, but deeply important and comprehensive change to our state constitution's equal protection clause, which since, you know, the beginning basically of the 20th century and beyond has only covered race and religion as protected classes that the state deems protected from discrimination under our equal protection clause. And in a really stunning and progressive move that I think could serve as a model for other states, the legislature has proposed a constitutional amendment to our equal protection clause that would expand our constitutional protections, not just to women for the first time, somewhat astoundingly, but to people based on their sexual orientation, to their gender presentation and identity – um, so trans folks will be fully and explicitly protected as a protected class – and to pregnant people. And believe it or not, even that isn't all. We also for the first time will include constitutional level protection for classes including age, disability, national origin, ethnicity...and so what we end up with at the end of this is a truly comprehensive equal protection clause that rightly says the state of New York protects everyone in our communities. And we've added in all of those classes that frankly are overdue – people that we have already deemed protected by our state laws.

But now we're in our root document, right? Our deal with New York, as, you know, residents of this state, we have base protections that can't be taken away by the Legislature, that can't easily be changed, that say – and will say if and, and, and will mean if the voters pass it at the ballot, which we sure hope they do – that no one in New York, regardless of whether there are a woman, of whether they can get pregnant, of whether they choose to have an abortion, whether you're trans, whether you're gay, disabled and more, right, are all entitled to the promise of equal protection in our constitution. And our federal constitution still hasn't gotten that right. So it would really be inspiring and fantastic for New York – albeit overdue in that we waited until the 21st century, but – to finally have a constitution that reflects our modern values, reflects everyone in our communities, and it raises no question about who and how much the equal protection of the laws in New York is valued for.

[00:07:06] Simon: And, and so, that...you've laid out a very powerful...I'm, you know, ready to vote. Um, that, that sounds great. I'm curious if you can kind of delve into like a couple of, of examples of, of how this, uh, the equal rights amendment would, would help New Yorkers.

[00:07:23] Lee: Absolutely. Right now people who are gay or trans or, um, people who can become pregnant are protected by New York State laws against discrimination, but there are two real limits on the way those protections work, um, right now. The first is that people are protected by statute – that, that's the same thing as a law, but only against private actors.

So what that means in practice is, if you wanna go to a movie, or a restaurant, or get a job, right, an employer, that movie theater, um, you know, that restaurant cannot kick you out because you are – they can't kick you out 'cause you're trans, or because you chose to have an abortion, or because you're disabled, right. And I think we know that on a gut level we have laws that support our ability to operate freely in the world without discrimination, regardless of any of those categories. And New York has those comprehensive laws. And very importantly, it's worth noting that we also explicitly protect reproductive choice as part of our protected classes in the law. So private actors – and again, that would be people like employers or people who run a public accommodation, like a movie theater or a restaurant – they can't kick you out because you've chosen an abortion. Right? So your access to reproductive care is, by law, protected in New York against those private actors.

And so to really honor the values of New York, and most certainly 21st century New York, in our foundational document, you know, between us as people and the government, us as organized people, it's really important. And it's not just symbolic. It actually makes sure that we can't have a government that runs roughshod over those rights, even if we sometimes take it for granted.

The second reason is that state laws can be overturned very easily in, in a couple of ways. They could be changed by a new legislature, or they could be – or at least attempted to be – altered or, um, changed by executive orders. So we have of course an election coming up and we'll have many more. It turns out we have a lot, particularly here in New York. And in the current state, where we are, we have these, you know, rules protected by law, but they don't apply to the government, right, and they could be changed at any time. If we got a majority in New York of, uh, we got a, say, a legislative majority or a governor in New York that did not agree with, say, trans rights, or abortion access, there are a lot of tools they could use to discriminate against people, um, who get abortions, who are trans, right. And those threat models are real. And there's certainly nothing from stopping, uh, legislative majority, were it to, you know, come in, that was anti-abortion, from changing our existing state protections in the Reproductive Health Act by just undoing it. They could do that in a heartbeat if, if anti-choice folks had a majority. And we know that access to comprehensive reproductive care, including abortion, is overwhelmingly popular with the American public across the board, in red states, in blue states, and that has not stopped politicians from chipping away at those rights. So just like the reminder from Dobbs that we can't take our constitutional rights for granted, we also can't take for granted that just because the majority of people in New York clearly support abortion access, that that means our laws stay that way.

So if we wanna make sure that the people's view in New York, which is overwhelmingly clear that the people in New York support abortion access, if we wanna make sure that that view is reflected in our laws seriously and permanently, and without a way for individual legislators or governors to change it, we gotta put that language in the constitution. It's gotta be specific. It's gotta be lasting. And that's how we make sure that New York and our state constitution are a haven for everyone against discrimination, and a promise, that our government will keep to us, that we are all deserving of the equal protection of the laws. So we've got, I'm glad you're ready to vote, but we've got another, um, cycle to pass this and then it will go before the voters. And we've got a little time to get this message out to folks so everybody knows the importance of that amendment and what it will mean for people in New York.

[00:11:47] Simon: Yeah. And it's interesting you bring up the popularity of the things that are in the ERA, because the ERA bill passing almost didn't happen, right. There, or, there was certainly times where there was some doubts there. Um, I'm curious from your vantage point – which is a, a great vantage point to answer this question – what kind of changed from the uncertainty to, to it actually happening, to actually passing?

[00:12:14] Lee: We were supporting a version of a new equality amendment that didn't pass before the end of the normal session. And the legislature actually left session without passing, uh, this constitutional amendment. And we knew the Dobbs opinion was coming, but we didn't quite get it over the line. But our legislature has the ability to call a special session.

And again, weird to look for silver linings in the kind of cruelties of the Supreme Court, but right after our legislature adjourned, uh, in theory, the Supreme Court issued its gun opinion striking down New York's concealed carry rules and restrictions, right, on concealed carry permits. And so as a result, we, uh, New York legislators were looking really at two pretty big threats from the Supreme Court and decided to come back into what's called a special session, which they can call themselves in, or the governor can call them in, in an extraordinary session. They all agreed to get together. The governor basically laid out an agenda for it, an extraordinary session that would bring together protections against gun violence, uh, basically replacement laws to replace the ones that the Supreme Court had struck down, and to readdress the question of a constitutional amendment protecting abortion. And there were a lot of different thoughts about whether it should be abortion-specific, right, whether it should say the word "abortion," whether it should apply to all reproductive access. But our position along the way – which of course made it a much bigger lift, right, legislatively, 'cause we're not just talking about a targeted abortion amendment – was to say, hey, wait a minute, abortion is just one part of this puzzle right now, because right now our constitution doesn't protect women, it doesn't protect pregnancy status. So you can't just go in and protect abortion without also saying we're protecting your full slate of reproductive choice options, right? Reproductive justice is not just about getting abortion, for the love of God, it's about the right to, you know, arrange your family as you see fit. Um, and that might include IVF, that might include adoption, it might include birth, right, and it might include abortion. But it's a little weird to just go in and just protect abortion when we didn't have any of that underlying architecture in our constitution, not even sex, right. I, I am invisible to the New York constitution as a woman, right. We haven't even gotten to whether or not I have a uterus or can become pregnant. So we really pushed for a holistic, as did many of our allies from the reproductive justice movement, from racial justice groups, from disability groups, saying there are a lot of people we've left out of this constitution and we have an opportunity not to kind of let the Supreme Court pull a fast one on us again, right.

We want the rug there under everybody's status so that we're prepared the next time that rights we may take for granted are taken away so quickly. So we had favored a different version that also inserted what's called a disparate impact standard. And what disparate impact is, is a theory that when you experience discrimination that you are harmed, whether that impact was specifically and provably bigoted against you as a person or not.

And I think a lot of people may remember a kind of cultural touchstone for this, which is really astounding when you think about it. So under federal law and the federal equal protection clause, we used to look at disparate impact. That is to say the courts used to examine, have you been discriminated against, and then we'll figure out if there's a remedy. But this Supreme Court, over the last 15 years or so, has eliminated that type of provable discrimination, and have narrowed equal protection claims overwhelmingly, only where you can point to proof of intentional bigotry and discrimination by the government actor who did it.

And the example I'm thinking of, which still blows my mind years later, is soon after Trump assumed the presidency, he passed what everyone with eyes knew was a discriminatory ban against Muslims coming to America. And it went to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court actually asked the question of whether or not the plaintiffs had proven that Trump had enacted the Muslim ban, which everyone called the Muslim ban, right, out of hostility to Muslims as a class, as a group of people.

And the Supreme Court's answer was no, 'cause they didn't have that smoking gun proof that Trump was a bigot, right. Every one of us knew that that was a discriminatory law. It discriminated against people from Muslim countries. We all knew Trump was a bigot – he said as much on TV when he passed the thing – and somehow that wasn't enough for the Supreme Court to say, that's discrimination, that violates equal protection clause. So disparate impact is a slightly different theory, which, again, used to exist, which recognizes that if you're harmed – even if a legislator didn't sit down and say, you know what, we're zoning this to create a redlined neighborhood of all white spaces where Black people can't live, by zoning rules, right – if you experience that discrimination, that's discrimination. Even if someone, a legislator, didn't sit down and say, I am doing this because I don't want Black people in this neighborhood, right, even without that evidence, you can prove a discrimination, and that's called disparate impact. And, um, we had favored a version of the equality amendment that added disparate impact, but not for every class, and this was really controversial. And the answer, and, and the reason why is we didn't want it applied to protections for religion. And the ACLU, the NYCLU of course, defend First Amendment rights, including, um, your right to freely exercise your religion and to be free from discrimination based on your religion.

So the problem with having a disparate impact standard that applies based on your religion is that that would enable private actors in public spaces – so an employer, right – to say, well, I'm not hiring any women who might have had an abortion, 'cause that disparately impacts my religious rights. So what we didn't want to do was breathe life into what we view as the Supreme Court's discriminatory application of the First Amendment.

And so that was a version that was out in the world and got a lot of pushback, including from religious groups, who said that that would effectively impede their ability to discriminate. So for example, we heard from some religious groups that they wanted to be able to hire and fire, uh, people, for example, at their yeshivas, who, um, were unmarried women who got pregnant, for example.

So it actually was a philosophical difference of the kind of world we want to live in. I just wanna be honest, there's only so much of that we can really fix on the state level, because the Supreme Court has, as I said, weaponized, those First Amendment rights. So where the Supreme Court has given a religious person a private enforceable First Amendment right to discriminate against someone, we unfortunately can't fix that in New York. But we certainly don't have to replicate that error in our constitution. But because this was such a fast moving process – and because legislation is sausage, and it's messy, and there are lots of voices in the mix – that became a political and difficult question for people to resolve in short order.

And so instead we got a different version of the equal rights amendment that simply goes into that existing equal protection clause – again, our existing clause just covering race and religion – and adds in all of those classes I mentioned earlier, right, so age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes.

So we will have those holistic constitutional protections. The one piece that we lost as advocates – uh, not just us at NYCLU, but many of the wonderful advocates we were in coalition with, including reproductive justice folks – was fixing that one problem the Supreme Court has created, which is not recognizing disparate impact discrimination.

And that doesn't mean it's the end of that fight by the way, Simon, right. We can and will make it a priority, go back to the Legislature and say, we can do this by law, we can do this in statute. And this constitutional provision preserves our right to do that. So it does no harm, and it does a lot of good.

[00:20:18] Simon: Absolutely. And I, I just, I'm sure some folks listening, you know, experienced this where it, it, it was in doubt, you know, we were really not sure if it was gonna happen and then to get to where you're talking about where it's an, an imperfect thing that did pass. Um, I think it's pretty remarkable that we got to where we are and, but the, the disparate impact piece is very, very interesting. And, and I'm, I'm glad to hear that we'll be, we will be pushing for ways to other ways to address that.

[00:20:48] Lee: And it's always tough to know where to accept compromise as advocates, right? Should we push harder? Should we say no, nothing is better than a compromise? It's always hard to know. Those are judgment calls we make all the time. And I think on this one, the thing that's clear to me is if we, because of the process – which I claimed I would talk about and didn't, but just for a quick second – a constitutional amendment needs to be passed by two successive, that is different, sessions of the legislature, where there's an election in between. So two different versions of our legislative representatives have to approve a constitutional amendment, and then after that second passage, it can go on the next ballot. We are at the end of a legislative session right now in 2022.

This is it. It's the '21-'22 session. So if we had not passed the initial version of the Equal Rights Amendment for the first time before the end of legislative session in 2022, we would not have been able to have the chance to get this on the 2024 ballot. And New York has too many elections – everyone who knows New York knows this – and it does unfortunately decrease participation at individual elections. And this is a really important amendment that affects everyone's life in New York. Everyone should have an opportunity and an incentive to vote for this. So obviously we, as advocates are targeting the presidential election, which is 2024.

So if we did not get a constitutional amendment first passed, basically by right now, it, Aug–beginning of August was our drop dead deadline – we were on hold till at a minimum 2026. And that means taking the risk that we're gonna go through a major election where we see all the attendant changes to Congress and the Supreme Court at the national level, and to our governor and legislative makeup in New York, and we wouldn't have seen the protections we just talked through in place before the results of those elections. So the stakes were really high. And on this one, it was a no brainer – we had to get women into our constitution, we had to get abortion rights into our constitution, we had to protect LGBT folks, like, we are talking about people's lives and liberty, right. So it was a no brainer that this was something we had to do to have the opportunity to get this in front of the voters by 2024.

[00:23:02] Simon: Yeah, that timing piece is critical and, and something that we'll certainly continue to cover in, in all of our, our work here and, and certainly on this podcast. And I also, you know, the, the ERA and, and rightfully so, got a lot of the headlines, um, you know, especially in the wake of the Supreme Court decision, but there are other issues around abortion that have long existed, and then in some ways are getting even worse. And one of those areas is hospital consolidation. And Gaby, I wanna turn to you on this, because it's not immediately obvious why hospital consolidation would be related to, to access to abortion.

But can you talk about this problem of consolidation and how it does relate to abortion?

[00:23:48] Gaby: Yeah, thanks Simon. So, as we know, high profile legislative restrictions on abortion in states like Texas, Mississippi, um, rightfully get full public attention. But hospital consolidation is another really big threat to reproductive healthcare access, um, and it often flies under the radar and goes unnoticed, because decisions are crafted behind closed doors, in boardrooms of giant hospital systems, and then approved by the state with little transparency or public input. So taking a step back, hospital consolidation or a hospital merger is when one larger hospital system absorbs a smaller hospital. It's kind of like when Pacman swallows up whatever is in his path.

Um, and usually that smaller hospital is a failing hospital that desperately needs financial resources to survive. And these large hospital systems can provide that for them. So over the last 20 years, more than 40 community hospitals in New York have closed, and large healthcare systems now control more than 70% of the hospital beds in New York State.

So these hospital takeovers are continuing, including one that we are working on right now, um, in Schenectady, New York in the Capital Region. And communities really pay the price for hospital consolidation because becoming part of a large healthcare system means that more and more hospitals are subject to institutional policies that restrict care for no good reason.

So one of the most notable examples of these restrictions on care happens at religiously affiliated hospitals. For example, Catholic hospitals are bound by this document, these institutional policies named the ethical and religious directives. And these directives prohibit some types of reproductive healthcare, like abortion, treatment of ectopic pregnancies, miscarriage management, sterilization, fertility treatment, all kinds of things.

Um, they also prohibit other kinds of care, like gender affirming care and end of life care. So they have really big impacts from birth to death, um, affecting a number of different people. And it's really important to note that these directives aren't grounded in sound medical science. Instead, they're based on the bureaucratic decision making of non-medical personnel. And in the case of Catholic hospitals, that includes bishops, um, who are not medically trained, who are putting their own preferences on a large swath of the population who are getting healthcare. So these restrictions really directly harm patients by stripping them of their autonomy and their medical decision making.

They create unnecessary barriers to care and it puts patients' health at risk. So why is this a big deal? Um, because today, one-in-six hospital beds across the country is at a Catholic healthcare facility. And we often see this, especially in progressive states, like Washington, California, places where, um, abortion is legal and protected.

So this proliferation of religiously affiliated healthcare networks means that more and more facilities are bound by institutional policies. And like I mentioned, New York is no stranger to this. We are on the ground in Schenectady, New York fighting one of these proposed hospital mergers, um, between Ellis Medicine and St. Peter's Health Partners. St. Peters is a Catholic hospital system that is actually part of Trinity Health, which is an even larger hospital network that's based in Michigan. So this means if this merger goes through, care will be decentralized and stripped from the local community, and decisions are being made at a million different levels, far removed from the community's actual needs.

I also wanna note that non-religiously affiliated hospitals can also have restrictions on care, and particularly when it comes to reproductive care. So some hospitals have gestational limits, so they'll only perform an abortion up to a certain number of weeks. And again, not because this is grounded in medical science, but because of the individual preferences of hospital administrators. We've also seen reporting recently across the country about non-religious hospitals, and even public hospitals, who have bans on abortion, um, due to a variety of factors – from anti-choice boards or administrators, to fear of losing funding, or community pressure.

And these restrictions on care because of these institutional policies have really big impacts when patients need things like emergency care for pregnancy complications, um, like miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies. We are seeing this in places like Texas, where people are going to a hospital and aren't able to get the care they need because there is a really severe ban in place that's been happening at Catholic hospitals for decades.

And we've spoken to providers working at Catholic hospitals, um, in New York who say that they have to test for a fetal heartbeat when a patient is having a miscarriage, even when that miscarriage is clearly inevitable. And if the heartbeat is detectable, they have to wait for signs of infection before treating it.

This is something we've heard from providers in New York State, this beacon of abortion access, and still people who are experiencing miscarriages are languishing and sometimes going into a quasi septic state and facing really life-threatening medical trauma. So that patient's only hope becomes that a sympathetic provider will transfer them to a facility that isn't subject to these same kind of restrictions.

It's also really important to know, like I mentioned, that these restrictions affect all kinds of reproductive healthcare. Um, the religious and ethical directives classify sterilizations as intrinsically immoral. So that means things like tubal ligations that are safest immediately after C-section are also prohibited. It means that somebody who's just given birth, who's just had a C-section, needs to have a second surgery to get the care that they need elsewhere. So it's not convenient, it's not cost-effective, it adds unnecessary risk, um, and pain here.

[00:29:30] Simon: And Gaby, so I, I think a, a lot of people might be surprised to, to learn of this, obviously, like quite serious problem. What can we do about it?

[00:29:39] Gaby: Yeah. So transparency is actually one of the biggest issues related to hospital consolidation, because patients are often unaware that their local hospital doesn't provide the care that they're looking for. So here at the NYCLU, we've been working on hospital transparency legislation, um, which aims to provide New Yorkers with the tools they need, um, to determine whether their local hospital provides the care they need prior to admission, and to identify communities where particular services like the ones we just talked about are completely unavailable.

So as a patient, you never wanna be in a situation where you've suffered a denial of care or medical trauma. You wanna prevent that from happening in the first place, and part of that is having access to information. And so this legislation would require the Department of Health to collect a list of restricted healthcare services from each hospital, and to publish that information in easy-to-understand language on its website so that patients can actually make use of it. Importantly, it also requires the Department of Health to publicly report on how denial of these services is impacting patients, focusing on how access to care is different for different communities, depending on people's race, ethnicities, socioeconomic status, all of those really important factors.

So, you know, this legislation would bring really needed transparency to the services that New York hospitals do and don't provide, and it would help pave the way to increase and improve healthcare access across the state.

[00:31:01] Simon: My last thing for both of you – I mean, one, if, if there's anything else, um, you want to add on, on any of the stuff that we've talked about at, um, I'm all ears – and then the second thing is, I kind of think that these situations can, you know, a decision like the Supreme Court's striking down Roe can be overwhelming, um, they can fill people with despair. And I kind of wanna just talk about if there are things – you know, including the things that we talked about, including that the, the ERA passing – generally speaking, just what kind of gives you hope, what keeps you going and, and what can people listening to this do to kind of, you know, if they are feeling, you know, despair, how do we bring them back, back out of it?

[00:31:42] Gaby: So, um, I just wanted to really briefly touch on why this hospital transparency legislation is really important in this moment right now. Um, first it would help New York respond to the effects of the Dobbs decision. We know patients from other states will be looking to New York to get abortion care here, and they need to know what hospitals will serve them and actually provide that kind of care.

So we're already hearing this from our partners in other states who say that they need easy tools to identify what hospitals they could drive to in the case of a medical emergency when someone is in crisis. And a lot of this care is time sensitive, so accurate information is actually lifesaving. You know, people don't have the privilege of looking for care elsewhere when they're in the middle of a serious emergency.

Um, and second, it would really help with our efforts, um, in Schenectady and fighting other hospital mergers, because communities facing these mergers have difficulty learning what health care services are gonna be lost. Um, so it makes it difficult for communities to organize, to preserve, or get local access to healthcare.

It's almost impossible to identify what services a hospital actually provides on their website. And when you try talking to hospital administrators, they don't give you a clear answer either. So communities aren't empowered with the necessary mechanisms to assess whether their needs are actually met by their local hospitals.

So all of that makes this legislation really important, especially in this moment.

[00:33:03] Lee: So Simon, maybe I'll tackle the first question, which is what gives you hope. Um, you know, it's, it's dark times out here, you know, we, we work on this professionally. I happen to be someone who could get pregnant, you know, so these things hit hard, right? They're personal, they're professional, they're philosophical.

So, you know, and I'm not such a sunny optimist I would pretend that all isn't very real – it really is. Um, but at the same time, so much has changed, even over my lifetime, like, we have legislators who will say the word abortion, right, who will talk about getting into the nitty gritty of what abortion access and abortion justice means, instead of just rights on paper, which, Roe v. Wade we had and could be taken away.

So I really derive hope that even over my lifetime, like, the conversation we're having about abortion is less abstract. I think that if the rescission of our abortion rights and the Dobbs decision have any impact, I hope it's one that empowers women, empowers activists, pregnant people, to come together without shame to demand abortion as part of comprehensive healthcare.

I, I do think that over the years, part of taking that right for granted was a quietness by politicians, a, a tepidness, a fear to really talk, to wrestle with the word abortion. I remember even passing the Reproductive Health Act in New York was an immensely heavy lift, despite the widespread and obvious support for abortion in the abstract, right. And that turf has changed. And I think, again, it's so odd to pull out silver linings from something so tragic, but many folks in the abortion justice movement have known for years that Roe v. Wade was built on pretty flimsy architecture, frankly, and that we kind of accepted that as a substitute for explicit rights to our reproductive access and justice, and that facade is gone, right. We know that we can't rely on a few Justices, you know, who are overwhelmingly white and male, and look at things from a 17th century lens or whatever, to actually do the right thing, and to make sure that something built on flimsy architecture survives. So I think we have a path here to do it better in New York, to do it without shame, to do it proudly, to do it within the intersectional lens, to realize that, you know, abortion justice is racial justice, is disability justice, is LGBT justice. It's a win for our privacy, for our bodily autonomy. And those are the conversations we're having, right. It's not just about, is it the second trimester under Roe v. Wade, it's not just about the rights on paper. It's about making sure when we do protect rights this time around, as our legislature has already started doing, that we do it with clear eyes, uh, with an eye towards long-term protections that will outlast all of us, I hope. Nobody likes having the wool, you know, pulled out from over their eyes. But the blessing in it is that we kind of have a roadmap for how to do it better and how to do it more permanently, uh, and more inclusively. And I think we're all on that path here in New York.

[00:36:18] Simon: Well with that, Lee, Gaby, thank you both very much again, for, for being on Rights This Way. We really appreciate it.

[00:36:27] Lee: Thank you Simon.

[00:36:28] Gaby: Thanks Simon. Great talking to you.

[00:36:31] Simon: Thank you for listening. You can find out more about everything we talked about today by visiting nyclu.org. And you can follow us @NYCLU on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. If you have questions or comments about Rights This Way, you can email us at podcast@nyclu.org. Until next time, I'm Simon McCormack.

Thank you for fighting for a fair New York.