Our mission is to help build a world in which every person — regardless of their race, income, insurance, gender identity, sexual orientation, abilities, or immigration status — can access expert, compassionate sexual and reproductive health care, information, and education without shame or judgement. We are committed to advocating for policies that boldly expand access to affordable, quality health care, strengthen sexual and reproductive rights, and dismantle the systemic racism that permeates the systems that form our society. It is with intention that we pursue an agenda that honors the reproductive justice framework established by womxn of color led organizations, because true bodily autonomy lies not just in one’s ability to control their reproductive destiny, but also in their human right to live and parent in safe, healthy and sustainable communities.
PPESA strives to use gender-inclusive terms such as “pregnant people,” or “people seeking abortions,” as often as possible. We may opt to use gendered language in specific circumstances, such as to reflect the language used in a statute/regulation or research finding, or to align our language with the language people use themselves. PPESA seeks to continually learn and change the language we use to be as inclusive as possible, and we welcome your questions and suggestions on how to improve.
New York has a proud legacy of advancing access to reproductive and sexual health care. In the face of relentless federal attacks and a pandemic that is disproportionately impacting communities of color while disrupting access to care and coverage for so many, we must take measures to build upon this legacy by eliminating barriers to patient-centered, high quality, and affordable health care for all.
Legislative proposals we support include but are not limited to:
PASSED: Funding for Reproductive and Sexual Health Care.
In 2016, it was estimated that roughly 1.2 million low-income New Yorkers were in need of publicly funded primary reproductive and sexual health care services. This need is deepened by the fact that the pandemic has altered the economic and social realities of people’s lives – especially those who were already facing systemic barriers to care. A lack of access to affordable contraception, and primary and preventive reproductive health care impacts the ability of one to shape their future in ways that fundamentally impact their health and economic security. For many, reproductive health care providers are an entry point into the health care system, and primary provider of care. The state must continue its longstanding investment in the Comprehensive Family Planning and Reproductive Health Program, especially in the wake of federal attacks to the nation’s Title X program, and the growing need for access to affordable health care as New York re-builds from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The enacted state budget maintains level funding for the state’s Family Planning Grant program.
Strengthening Access to and Coverage of Virtual Care.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated widespread adoption and utilization of telehealth and has forever changed the way we access care. Much of this growth was possible because of federal and state actions that loosened restrictive policies that burdened providers and established requirements that insurers pay providers for care as if it were delivered in-person. Despite these important steps, access to virtual care is far from universal. Both urban and rural communities alike face barriers to reliable and affordable internet and devices that will enable them to connect virtually to a health care provider. New York must pursue policies and investments that break down these barriers, and ensure providers have the ability to sustainably deliver patient-centered virtual care to all who need it. Failure to do so will deepen existing inequities, disproportionately impacting communities who have for far too long faced systemic barriers to care that have threatened their health and well-being.
Guaranteeing Coverage of Abortion Care.
The right to abortion is meaningless without the ability to access care. As with any health care service, insurance coverage is a vital enabler to access. New York is one of 16 states that covers abortion care with state funds in our Medicaid Program. In 2017, state regulations further strengthened insurance coverage of abortion care in New York, to ensure more New Yorkers had affordable access. We must build upon these policies and put into our state law a requirement for insures to broadly cover abortion care.
Addressing Maternal Mortality.
The rate of pregnancy-related mortality and morbidity in the United States, especially for people of color, is unacceptably high. Despite our progressive policies surrounding access to women’s health care, New York State currently ranks 30th out of 50 states in its maternal death rate. Black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to be impacted compared to white women; in New York City, that rate hurtles to 12 times. Many of these deaths and serious complications are preventable, and we must do everything in our power to keep them from happening. New York must take steps to:
Expand Medicaid coverage from 60 days to one-year post pregnancy. Research finds that disruptions in health coverage can have adverse health consequences, and that extending coverage improves health outcomes. Considering about 1 in 3 pregnancy-related deaths occur one week to a year following birth, the current 60-day coverage period is failing to meet the health care needs of womxn.
Improve access to midwifery-led birthing centers. Every person has a right to give birth with dignity, in a safe and supported environment of their choosing. Midwives provide high-quality, patient-centered maternity care. Experts, including the World Health Organization, recommend midwives as an evidence-based approach for reducing maternal mortality. New York should identify opportunities to expand access to midwifery care, including passing legislation that supports the establishment of freestanding birthing centers led by licensed midwives, and advancing initiatives that will increase the diversity of midwives across the state.
The right to bodily autonomy and equality is foundational to one’s ability to live fully and freely. In 2019, following a decade of advocacy and in the face of federal threats, lawmakers passed the Reproductive Health Act, aligning our state law with the federal protections provided for under Roe v. Wade. This was a historical step to modernize our law and protect the right to abortion here in New York. But it was also just the beginning. While often seen as a progressive beacon, our state constitution fails to uphold equality for all New Yorkers, preventing us from redressing the myriad of ways discrimination – particularly misogyny and racism - show up in the systems and institutions that form our society. We must continue to fight for laws and policies that respect and advance the right to self-determination, regardless of your who you are, where you live or how much money you have.
Legislative proposals we support include but are not limited to:
Ensuring Comprehensive Sexuality Education for all New York Youth.
Information is power. When young people have the tools they need to make healthy decisions about their bodies and their relationships, they have a brighter future.Comprehensive sexuality education has been shown to improve health outcomes and benefit our youth. Unfortunately, there is no consistent requirement for this education in New York, creating a patchwork system where not all kids receive this education and in some cases are not receiving accurate information. PPESA supports legislation that would require the inclusion of comprehensive, medically accurate, culturally, age and developmentally appropriate sexuality education in publicly funded K-12 schools statewide. Because your ability to access this vital information should not be dependent upon your zip code.
Advancing an Equal Rights Amendment.
For decades, brilliant legal minds, and fierce advocates have fought for a vision of equality for all – challenging the ways in which antiquated notions of gender, and racial bias show up in our everyday lives. The state and federal Constitutions are the foundational documents that protect our fundamental rights. We must fight to ensure they reflect and truly protect all of us – and for that to occur they need to be amended. PPESA supports legislation (A.760-Seawright/S.1268-Krueger) that will amend our state constitution to ensure it can effectively dismantle the overt and insidious ways systems and institutions foster discrimination here in New York.
Creating an Abortion Access Fund.
The right to abortion is a false promise if one is unable to access care. While other states have used the pandemic as an opportunity to limit access to abortion, New York State made clear that abortion is essential care. The COVID-19 crisis has only worsened the existing legislative, financial, and logistical obstacles to abortion access across the country. PPESA supports legislation (A.1926-Reyes/S.758-Biaggi) that would establish an Abortion Access Fund and permit taxpayers to voluntarily contribute to it on their state income tax return form. The money raised would be distributed to non-profit organizations providing logistical and financial support to individuals who find access to abortion care out of reach. More so now than ever, New York has a role and responsibility to expand access to this fundamental right and health care service.
Exploring the Impact of Limited Service Pregnancy Centers.
Anti-abortion pregnancy centers often masquerade as full-service health centers, while offering individuals limited services such as free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and biased counseling. Anecdotal evidence suggests their main intent is to persuade individuals not to seek abortion care. These actions can be deeply stigmatizing and impact access to timely reproductive health care. PPESA supports legislation (S.470-Hoylman/A.5499-Glick) that would advance a study of Limited Service Pregnancy Centers in our state to understand how they function and impact access to comprehensive reproductive health care.
The right to bodily autonomy and self-determination is interconnected to the broader fight for social justice. For hundreds of years, racism, classism, misogyny, heteronormativity and white supremacy have permeated the systems that form our society. We see it in the unjust actions of our legal system. It lives in our health care system that fails communities of color, Indigenous people and immigrants. It thrives in an economy that favors the wealthy at the expense of the vulnerable. It lies within the false narrative that you have a right to decide when to begin or grow a family, but not the right to parent with resources and supports and in safe and sustainable communities. It is both explicit and implicit, intertwined in everyday actions, and the policies and laws that facilitate inequity and reinforce systems of power. It is incumbent upon all of us to name, disrupt, and dismantle the oppression experienced by far too many and build a New York where true justice and equality is the lived experience of all.
Legislative proposals we support include but are not limited to:
It has been said that a budget is an expression of one’s vision and values. Yet for years, we have seen our state budget balanced on the backs of the most vulnerable, and those who provide critical services to them. As the state sets forth on the path to economic recovery, it cannot be business as usual. New York is 44th in the nation in tax fairness. It is time to enact policies that raise revenue through increased taxes on those with the greatest income and wealth. Further, we must ensure those funds are invested in the communities that have been disproportionally impacted by COVID and decades of economic and racial injustice. This will bring us closer to a vision of equality for all. Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts supports the Invest in Our New York Act.
PASSED: Repealing the “Walking While Trans” ban.
For decades a section of the Penal Law - “loitering for the purpose of engaging in a prostitution offense”- has been discriminatorily enforced. In 2018, 91% of people arrested under this statute were Black and Latinx people, and 80% identified as women. Since its inception, this section of the law has allowed for police profiling and harassment of LGBTQ+ communities, immigrant communities, and Black and Latinx communities. PPESA supports legislation (A.3355-Paulin/S.1351-Hoylman) that will repeal this discriminatory provision in the penal code. This bill was signed into law on 2/2/21.
Vacating Convictions for Offenses Resulting from Sex Trafficking.
During the course of their trafficking, survivors may be convicted of other types of offenses that were done at the direction of their traffickers. PPESA supports legislation (A.459-Gottfried/S.674-Ramos) that will enable survivors to seek relief from these associated convictions.
PASSED: Ending Solitary Confinement.
The United Nations considers solitary confinement exceeding 15 days to be torture. People who experience solitary confinement can suffer severe and irreparable mental and physical harm due to sensory deprivation and lack of human interaction. PPESA supports The HALT Solitary Confinement Act (A.2277-Aubry/S.2836-Salazar) which would ban special populations from isolated confinement, ensure stronger protections for vulnerable populations, set a 15-day time-cap on all segregated confinement, and improve conditions for those held in solitary. This bill was signed into law on 3/31/21.
Addressing the Rights of Incarcerated Pregnant Persons.
Every individual has a right to be treated with dignity and to have the necessary resources and supports that enable them to truly exercise agency in their reproductive decision making. However, we live in a society where these fundamental rights are constrained by conditioned beliefs as to who is deserving of, or entitled to, this respect and treatment under the law. These dynamics are even more pronounced in the criminal law system. Inherently, incarceration undermines reproductive autonomy. This is distinctly true for Black women and women of color, whose lives lie in the intersections of identities that are devalued and forced to exist within systems of oppression. PPESA supports legislation (A.616-Rosenthal/S.399-Biaggi) that takes steps towards dismantling the overt and insidious ways in which the criminal law system fails to respect and uphold the reproductive health and rights of incarcerated individuals.
Expanding Access to Affordable Health Care Coverage.
Everyone’s health depends on access to care and coverage. More than 400,000 New Yorkers cannot enroll in health insurance because of their immigration status. This concerning reality is intensified in the face of a pandemic. New York must enact measures to ensure coverage by advancing legislation that would provide 1-year of Essential Plan coverage for people with COVID-19 (A.1585-Gottfried/S.2549-Rivera). This measure will temporarily extend Essential Plan coverage to New Yorkers who have had confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 and who are otherwise ineligible for coverage because of their immigration status. Additionally, passage of the Essential Plan for All (A.880-Gottfried/S.1572-Rivera) will make access to affordable care a reality for undocumented New Yorkers by establishing a state-funded Essential Plan program for immigrants whose status makes them ineligible for other state and federally funded coverage.
Advancing Voting Protections and Reforms.
The ability to preserve and expand access to reproductive rights and dismantle oppression rests on the right to vote. Conducting elections in 2020 during the pandemic put a spotlight on deficiencies in New York state’s election system. It is critical that along with the right to vote, voters have access to the ballot. PPESA will support legislation that ensures the right to vote and access to the ballot through modernization of New York’s election system.
Supporting Medical Aid in Dying.
The right to bodily autonomy and self-determination is not constrained to one aspect of being, but rather the spectrum of life. PPESA supports passage of the Medical Aid in Dying Act (S.6471-Savino/A.4321-Paulin), to provide adults with the agency to make end-of-life decisions for themselves, with dignity and compassion.
Ensuring Access to Representation.
The right to counsel is a fundamental component of our legal system, but one that does not extend to immigration court. PPESA supports the Access to Representation Act (A.1961-Cruz/S.81-Hoylman) which will guarantee that low-income immigrants are able to access legal representation for immigration proceedings. This act will put into place resources and legal safeguards to ensure that immigrants can fight for their right to remain with their families and in their communities.
PASSED: Eliminating Use of the Term “Incorrigible”.
The word “incorrigible” present in the Family Court Act, has a deeply problematic usage in the court system. The roots of this label were to reinforce sexist standards of behavior for young girls, and has profoundly targeted youth of color, who are far more likely to be petitioned for a status offense. PPESA supports the passage of legislation that will remove this term from the Family Court Act. This bill was signed into law on 4/6/21.