Members of the New York Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood dressed in hospital gowns and surgical masks and stormed the Capitol last week in hopes of convincing Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to put the Reproductive Health Act up for a vote on the Senate floor.
The bill (S.2796/A.1748), which would codify abortion regulations under public health law instead of the criminal code, has been sitting in the Senate health Committee since January 17. The legislation calls for abortion to be regarded in New York as a form of health care, removing it from the penal code and placing it in the Public Health Law. It would end criminalization of abortion after 25 weeks of pregnancy if the fetus is not viable or the women’s health is at risk.
New York state laws consider any abortion after 25 weeks a Class E or D felony, unless the procedure was performed to preserve the life of the mother.
The demonstrators also called for the passing of the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act this legislative session, which is scheduled to end June 21.
The two bills have passed the Assembly and been delivered to the Senate.
Video produced by Katelyn Cordero
“The bills are super important, New York needs to do everything they can for women’s health for them to have healthy lives,” said NYCLU’s Policy Counsel Katharine Bodde. “This will make for healthier families and communities, it will allow them to participate in society in a meaningful way.”
Approximately 50 protesters demanded that Flanagan leave the medical decisions to the doctors, rather than taking matters into his own hands. It has been a long, ten-year fight to get the bill this far, but Flanagan is one of their biggest obstructions at the moment, according to Bodde.
The Trump Administration has already taken steps to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which the demonstrators hope to keep intact with the passing of the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (S.3668/A.1378). The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Bonacic and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, would require that insurers cover contraception without a co-pay, and allow for a 12-month supply at a time.
It would also extend coverage to emergency contraception that is available in pharmacies over-the-counter, and without an appointment with a health care provider. The legislation would cover all FDA approved contraception drugs, devices, and products.
Supporters hope this bill can continue the scope of women’s health services provided under the Affordable Care Act in New York state, even if it is repealed on the federal level.
“Their inaction sends a clear message: they think it’s a good medicine and good public policy to make women leave New York for the critical care they need, and that we shouldn’t be able to manage our own birth control,” said Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health. “They think they know better than medical experts and women themselves and they couldn’t be more wrong.”