On Tuesday, Jan. 15, I attended the legislative session in Albany to witness the passage of the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) after many years of being stalled in the State Senate. It was a landmark moment for reproductive rights, a cause that I have supported for my entire adult life.
Those who would ban all safe, legal abortions in this country are disseminating much misinformation about the RHA. Their claims only serve to mislead the public about this issue and distract from what the RHA accomplishes. The purpose of this letter is to present facts about the legislation to help counter this misinformation.
The Reproductive Health Act protects safe, legal abortion for New Yorkers. This is a right that the majority of the people in this country support. Now more than ever this right is under threat from a reactionary administration and conservative Supreme Court. The legislation moves the regulation of abortion into the public health law where it belongs and out of the criminal code. It recognizes that in modern medical practice trained medical professionals like nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and licensed midwives, are qualified to provide certain early term abortion services. The RHA allows for late-term abortion for health reasons and places the decision in the hands of the woman in consultation with her health care professional, not in the hands of politicians. Before the passage of the law, some New York women were required to travel elsewhere for this healthcare.
Those who believe that the government should be in the business of deciding when and under what circumstances a woman should bear children paint images of abortion during labor or birth, either by deliberate action or failure to provide adequate medical care to a newborn. There is no such thing in abortion practice. The opponents of the RHA claim that unqualified professionals “even a podiatrist or optometrist” will be able to perform abortions without legal consequences. That is as false as it is absurd. Another groundless fear stoked by those against abortion rights is that law enforcers will not be able to charge criminals with a sufficiently serious crime when they commit violence against a pregnant woman resulting in miscarriage.
I urge everyone who supports access to safe and legal abortion to make sure your representatives in Albany and Washington are aware of your views. Support organizations that work to improve access to adequate healthcare for all. Speak out about the importance of respecting a woman’s ability to make the right decisions about those matters that impact the course of her life. Above all, make sure that the public conversation is based on facts, not misinformation designed to inflame emotions.