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NYCLU Campaign Uses ‘70s Technology to Demand Update of New York’s 1970 Abortion Law

The New York Civil Liberties Union and creative agency Huge launched a multimedia and digital campaign today that deploys outmoded 1970’s-era fax machines to ask Gov. Andrew Cuomo and State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to fix New York’s equally-outmoded 1970 abortion law.

The “Facts Machine” broadcasts live on the NYCLU’s social media feeds today and tomorrow, releasing facts for 1,970 minutes about New York’s inadequate abortion law. Viewers of the broadcast can text the machine to send faxes to the Governor and Majority leader demanding they pass the Reproductive Health Act (RHA). State lawmakers have until tomorrow, with the close of the legislative session, to pass the RHA and bring New York law into compliance with Roe v. Wade after four decades of inaction.

“If the leadership in Albany is willing to let women’s rights remain trapped in 1970, then we are more than willing to use 1970’s technology to deliver the message that enough is enough,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “’The Facts Machine’ campaign illustrates that four decades is too long to wait to bring New York’s abortion law in line with Roe v. Wade. Especially now that the Trump regime wants to roll back the clock on reproductive rights, New York just can’t wait any longer to fix our inadequate abortion law.”  

The “Facts Machine” will use the NYCLU’s Facebook and Twitter feeds to live stream an image of a static 1970’s-era fax machine regularly printing out facts about the state of New York’s abortion law and the need to pass the Reproductive Health Act. Viewers can text “FAX” to the number 347-933-6965 and the machine will automatically generate a fax that will be sent to Majority Leader Flanagan and Governor Cuomo, flooding their offices with constituent messages in support of a vote and passage of the RHA.

The Reproductive Health Act codifies the protections of Roe v. Wade in state law. Acknowledging that abortion care is health care, it removes the regulation of abortion from the criminal code and places it in the public health law. In accordance with Roe, the RHA ends New York’s criminalization of abortion later in pregnancy when a woman’s health is at risk or when a fetus is not viable. The RHA also clarifies that trained and qualified advance practice clinicians, within their scope of practice, can provide early and safe abortion care.

New York has a legacy of protecting women’s health and rights, but the state’s abortion laws have lagged for decades. New York was one of the first states to legalize abortion care in 1970, three years before the Roe decision. But it has not updated its abortion law since. Prior attempts to pass the RHA in New York stalled even as other states enacted similar legislation. The RHA is now lingering in committee. Majority Leader Flanagan has not allowed the bill to come to the floor of the State Senate for a vote after its passage by the State Assembly.  

The NYCLU partnered with New York-based creative digital agency HUGE to create the “Facts Machine,” approaching them as the legislative season wound down about a creative way to engage lawmakers anew. The NYCLU previously held a large rally in Albany in March with a list of demands of lawmakers in the wake of Donald Trump’s inauguration that included the RHA. Last month the NYCLU delivered more than 50,000 petitions to State Senate leadership calling for the RHA, in partnership with Planned Parenthood; the National Institute for Reproductive Health and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District II. And earlier this month, NYCLU supporters demonstrated in hospital gowns outside Senate chambers demanding a vote.

“When petitions, emails and demonstrations had been tried, we thought the next step was to educate people about the problem while reaching our representatives in a new way,” said Sara Worthington, group creative director at Huge. “Using the fax accomplished both of those things and delivered a really serious issue in a not-so-serious way.”

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