On the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, this past Tuesday, Senate Democrats passed the Reproductive Health Act 38-24. The bill’s provisions include dropping most restrictions on abortions after 24 weeks, allowing midwives and nurse practitioners to perform abortions and end criminal charges for harming children in the womb.
“We’re saying here in New York, women’s lives matter. We’re saying here in New York, women’s decisions matter,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said.
The Democrats have been trying to get this legislation passed for years but have been unable to with a Republican majority control in the chamber. But this past November with the Democratic win, the majority leadership went to the Democrats for the first time in a decade. In addition to the abortion bill, the Democrats passed the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which requires insurers to cover contraception for patients.
“You know, for people who are anti-abortion, but will also not agree to have contraception covered with health insurance makes no sense,” said Executive Director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, Yamani Hernandez at a talk hosted by the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, this past Tuesday night. “There’s no win-win situation for women. At every turn women’s options are taken away. At the very least contraception should be covered. And we believe abortion cost should be as well.”
For Hernandez, people are generally unaware of the full cost of getting an abortion. Not only is an abortion costly, but if women live in a state where only one abortion clinic is operational, travel costs can add extra expenses, which many women cannot afford.
“There should not be so many barriers in place for women to receive safe healthcare options,” said Hernandez, one of five panelists at the talk. “An abortion clinic is safe, clean and necessary for women’s health.”
For Gov. Cuomo, the act is meant to codify is Roe v. Wade protections into state law if the case were overturned by the Supreme Court.
“That’s why we had to pass this law, to protect our state,” Cuomo said at his bill signing. “And that’s why I believe we have to go even a step further and do a constitutional amendment.
Since the swearing in of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, many pro-choice advocacy groups have been concerned about Roe v. Wade being overturned. After Kavanaugh was sworn in, West Virginia and Alabama passed state constitutional amendments that could ban abortion if the landmark ruling was overturned. Kentucky and Florida have sent proposals to ban abortion around the sixth week of pregnancy, barely giving the women enough time to even decide to have an abortion.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, at least 424 anti-abortion bills have been passed at the state level since 2010, meaning, 43 percent of all reproductive-age women — 29 million people — now live in areas that are hostile to abortion rights, including seven states that each have just one abortion clinic left, the New York Times Reports.
It makes New York’s recent bill all the more impressive given the continuous roll backs for women’s healthcare across the country.