The New York Civil Liberties Union today joins Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith and a group of allied senators in a press conference supporting the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act, which would update New York's reproductive rights law to protect reproductive rights for all New Yorkers.
"The modernization of New York State's abortion law is now necessary to protect women's right to choose, and the NYCLU applauds the leadership of the Governor and the Senate Democrats in spearheading the process at this critical moment," said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. "The proposal provides strong protections that will ensure that New York State remains a beacon for choice in the face of broad federal attacks on reproductive health and women's rights."
The bill would enact the "Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act" under the Public Health Law, while amending or repealing various antiquated statutes. The Alliance for Women's Health, which the NYCLU helped organize a year ago along with Planned Parenthood New York City, NARAL Pro-Choice New York, Family Planning Advocates of New York State, and other allies, supports the bill. The NYCLU also played a key role in drafting the proposal on which the bill is based.
"The governor's bill protects not only the right to end a pregnancy but also the right to bear a child and the right to use or refuse birth control," said Galen Sherwin, Interim Director of the NYCLU Reproductive Rights Project. "Given last week's Supreme Court decision, which sharply constricts constitutional protection for the right to choose, it is crucial that New York update its laws so as to protect women's fundamental right to health care."
New York liberalized its abortion law in 1970 -- before the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v Wade. Cases since Roe as well as changes in health care delivery have made New York's existing law antiquated. Current state law, for example, bans all abortion after 24 week except when necessary to preserve a woman's life. Up until now, federal precedents have made a complete ban on abortion after 24 weeks unenforceable when abortion is needed to protect a woman's health. But the Supreme Court's decision significantly weakened these federal constitutional protections, and suggests that the Court may not stand by this precedent. The state bill would therefore write the health exception into New York law.
The legislation would also contain provisions to protect a range of reproductive decisions. Among the most important provisions, the NYCLU said, are the following:
- The law would create a reproductive right of privacy. The bill would protect individuals' rights to make private reproductive decisions, including the right to choose or refuse contraception, the right to choose or refuse to bear a child as well as the right to terminate a pregnancy before fetal viability or when necessary to protect life or health. The bill would also make it unlawful to discriminate in the regulation, provision or access to health services -- guarding, for example, against refusals to offer assisted reproductive services to same sex couples.
- The law would secure the right to abortion. The draft bill would allow a woman to end a pregnancy until viability or at any time necessary to protect the life or health of the woman. It would define "viability" in a way that would protects health providers from being "second guessed" on decisions regarding fetal viability.