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Action Fund Member Newsletter Fall 2022

Welcome to the fifth edition of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic Action Fund’s Member-Only Newsletter! We are thrilled you have chosen to be a member of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and want to make sure you receive all the perks of membership. You can look forward to receiving this exclusive newsletter every quarter! This quarter, you will find: 

Is there something specific you want to see? An amazing activist you think we should highlight? Want to get involved? Let us know at [email protected]!  

Overview of Dobbs V. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and the Overturning of Roe v. Wade. 

What was overturned exactly? 

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (JWHO). The ruling upheld Mississippi’s ban on abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy, overturned Roe v. Wade, and ended the federal constitutional right to abortion in the United States.  

Weren’t there any federal laws protecting the right to abortion? 

While many believe the right to abortion was enumerated in federal law, this was never the case in the United States. Roe v. Wade held that the right to personal privacy protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment includes the right of a woman to determine whether or not to bear a child. While this decision effectively legalized abortion nationwide, the right to abortion was never codified, or enshrined, into federal law. Likewise, Roe v. Wade established rights that were not explicitly enumerated in the Bill of Rights. Therefore, prior to Dobbs v. JWHO, individual states were left with the ability to codify this right into their state law. For example, the right to abortion has been codified into New York State law since 1970, protecting the state from the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade.  

If the right to abortion has been codified in New York state, what else can be done to protect the right to abortion in NY? 

Despite New York’s protection of reproductive rights, the State Constitution lacks the appropriate language needed to explicitly enumerate these rights. However, on June 30, 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul called an extraordinary session to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (S.8797A/A.10468A). As described by the New York Civil Liberties Union, this Amendment fills critical gaps in our constitution to prohibit discrimination based on a person’s race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, and sex – including pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.  

Vincent Russell, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic Action Fund, asserts that the passage of the ERA will, “protect New Yorkers from discrimination and ensure access to sexual and reproductive health care are secure, regardless of who is in office.” The ERA is a constitutional amendment, which means it is going to need to pass in the legislature a second time AND be voted on by the citizens of New York in order to go into effect.  

This is a long process, but an important one. With the ERA’s expansion of several new protected identity classes, it would provide constitutional, equal protection to more individuals  of New York  regardless of possible future Supreme Court decisions or elected officials.  

What are the futures of the Planned Parenthoods in the “overturned” states? 

In response to this overturning, Governor Kathy Hochul passed a six-bill package to protect access to reproductive health in New York State, regardless of residency in the state. For example, Governor Hochul passed S.9079B/A.9687B, which prohibits professional misconduct charges against health care practitioners on the basis that such health care practitioner... recommended or provided reproductive health care services for a patient who resides in a state where such services are illegal, and S.9080B/A.9718B which prohibits medical malpractice insurance companies from taking any adverse action against an abortion or reproductive health care provider who performs an abortion or provides reproductive health care that is legal in the state of New York on someone who is from out of state. PPHP Action Fund’s leadership and expertise in sexual and reproductive health care access was instrumental in this legislation, as one of the bills included in the package (S.9030A/A.10094A) included former PPHP Action Fund Board Member Kristen Browde as one of the writers of the legislation. More information about the other bills in Governor Hochul’s package can be found here. 

This legislation provides protection for the influx of individuals coming to New York to obtain the reproductive health care they need. The share of abortions obtained by out-of-state residents has steadily increased in New York since record numbers of anti-abortion restrictions began rolling out about a decade ago in other states. For instance, this CDC report from 2012 found that out-of-staters accounted for 3% of New York abortions. This proportion tripled to 8.9% by 2019 — with nearly 7,000 non-residents seeking abortions in the New York. That’s more abortions for out-of-state clients than in any other U.S. state besides Illinois

An interactive map that relays information about the restrictions on reproductive health care in each state can be found here.  

What else is now at jeopardy with this overturning? 

Dobbs v. JWHO has opened many doors to the potential overruling of past court cases that have been settled on the same precedent as Roe v. Wade. In response to the Supreme Court decision, Justice Thomas wrote that his fellow justices, “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents under the Fourteenth Amendment, including Griswold v. Connecticut, Lawrence v. Texas, and Obergefell v. Hodges,” since these cases were set on similar precedents of rights to fundamental privacy, substantive due process, and equal protection rights as Roe v. Wade. These cases protect the liberty of married couples to buy/use contraceptive without government interference, legalized same-sex consensual, sexual activity in the United States, and protects the right to same-sex marriage, respectively. In the dissenting opinion of Dobbs v. JWHO, Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen G. Breyer wrote that these cases, among others, “are all part of the same constitutional fabric [as Roe v. Wade], protecting autonomous decision-making over the most personal of life decisions.” However, when writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito asserted that this court decision concerned only the constitutional right to abortion and no other right, and that, “nothing in the opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion." To read more about the expansion of personal liberty protection under substantive due process jurisprudence over the past few decades, click here.  

Story Spotlight by Sita McGuire (pronoun: she) 

Reproductive Rights in Indonesia and the Realities of the Illegalization of Abortion 

As an Indonesian woman who comes from a lineage of young mothers, Indonesia reflects a state that does not have universal and equal access to abortion. This future that many American women fear is coming into fruition has been a reality in many places – particularly in poor Black/Brown/Indigenous communities within the United States.  While the fear, outrage, and sadness we are all feeling is valid, it is a duty for privileged individuals to listen to the experiences of groups most affected by anti-abortion policies. 

While I will mostly be discussing the experiences of cisgender Indonesian women, I do want to make clear that the right to an abortion is as much of a queer and race issue as it is a gender issue. In Indonesia, and all around the world, there are individuals who will need access to abortion who do not identify as a woman or would not under different circumstances. Why my language is rigid is because this article is semi-autobiographical, and I am speaking for people I personally know who I have witnessed are targeted by these issues.  

LGBTQ rights in Indonesia are complex; within different islands, religions, and Indigenous groups, the perception of queerness greatly varies. As a somewhat “genderless” language, meaning that Indonesian only uses one universal pronoun that is gender neutral - “dia” - many Indigenous groups of Indonesia embrace the existence of many genders. The Bugis from the island of South Sulawesi recognize five gender identities within their language and even have a specific term/position called bissu, which roughly translates to “transgender priests.” But while LGBTQ+ identities are celebrated within certain Indigenous communities, due to the structures of Western colonialism, islands with more traditional ideologies do not embrace queer identities to the same degree.  

 In Indonesia, as well as much of the world, it is hard to fully report on the reality of how these policies affect non-cis individuals due to medical transphobia. The unique challenges non-cisgender individuals undergo during pregnancy overall - including abortion - are rarely recognized, as so many of the regulations around abortions solely mention women and are based around traditional marriage structures. What this reveals about the illegality of abortion is that because reproductive health intersects so many identities, without universal access, conversations that deviate from the “expected” circumstances of a procedure are suppressed.  

In Indonesia, abortion is allowed in specific and strict instances. Like many southern states, an abortion is only allowed within a 6-week time period if these specific occurrences have taken place: the pregnancy would result in a severe medical issue, or the mother has been raped. Again, the procedure is only allowed within a time frame of 40 days. The women who seemingly have the most “freedom” to accessing abortion are married women, but they can only undergo the procedure if their husband has consented and often times requested one.  

However, Indonesia’s relationship with abortion is complex. My mother grew up and was a product of the Two-Child-Policy, which only allowed for families to have two children for population control. If a family was on their third pregnancy, the woman would often be forced to abort the fetus due to social, economic, and political demand. Overall, abortion, whether restricted or forced upon Indonesian women, has placed the choice of childbirth in the hands of the government or the men around them.  

But as we have seen time and time again, the need for unmarried individuals to receive an abortion does not disappear under tight restrictions; in fact, I know many Indonesian women personally who have had abortions whose identities would not allow them to lawfully. It is rather that it is concealed, done under a different procedure-name in clinics by doctors who are willing to do it or by other non-westernized health providers. For example, my island of Bali has healers called “Balians'' which the people of their village often rely more on than traditional hospitals. Many of these procedures are not medically tested, do not ensure safety and aftercare for the woman, and are concealed and secretive, giving women very little access to actually talk about these traumatic experiences without shame.  

In saying this, I hope to not discount the incredible work of third-party medical providers, particularly Balians. Balians use a number of different procedures, typically based around ancestral energy and spiritual practices. I do not want this to supply an idea that these healers use pseudo-science to cause more harm than good - growing up, I have seen and heard of healers that brought a woman’s fertility back, maintained the health of HIV positive patients, and addressed the mental health needs of severe cases of depression. When governmental laws were put in place to oppress individuals, Balians and other third-party providers had to create solutions in reaction to the state. While decentering Westernized thought within medicine diverges from the topic at hand, discounting the services provided as dangerous or barbaric on the “non-traditional” provider’s behalf is, in my opinion, a disgusting view of those who are simply reacting to non-universal forms of health care. As a Balinese Indonesian who grew up in the United States for the most part, I state confidently that I would rely on Balians for several medical issues far more than I would rely on hospitals. 

Returning to the subject of access to abortive procedures, in a state where abortion is not protected within the law, forms of contraceptives are never easily available either. This first and foremost is due to the lack of socialization around these laws with a clear understanding of what they actually allow and restrict. There is a particular shame around abortions that seems to exist within even the most progressive nations, meaning admitting to having one becomes a daunting task for anyone with a uterus. So even in the instance a woman is eligible to undergo an abortion despite the relentlessly strict laws surrounding this procedure in Indonesia, due to stigma, and an unclear translation of what the law actually allows and forbids, it is much easier for women to access abortion outside of government funded hospitals.  

The same goes for the ability of doctors to provide birth control and other contraceptives to their patients. Does the law specifically state the illegality of birth control like most abortions are? It is undoubtedly debatable, and trust me, I have read it through in both translated versions into English and Indonesian itself along with multiple interpretations of the text from different accounts. What is clear is it is only readily accessible to women who are married and have their husband’s consent, and for the rest, doctors do not want to take the risk of prescribing birth control to a non-married patient and finding themselves in a legal battle due to a “wrong” interpretation. So again, birth control only becomes obtainable through third-party methods with little regulations and testing along with Plan B.  

And before you look down at the inability to translate the Indonesian laws in place as a fault of Indonesians themselves, do we honestly think the United States Constitution is easily interpretable? If it was, why is there so much fear at the moment over having a miscarriage, the usage of period tracker apps, and how this coincides with the right to vote for those with uteruses? This fear of misinterpretation, of getting it wrong without even realizing it, has haunted women from my country forever, as well as always being a reality for many women and gender expansive people in the United States who face barriers because of their race, gender, immigration status, and/or socio-economic status.  

I am writing this for the women of my family who lived under these conditions their entire lives, and other groups of women who have lived within this reality for as long as they can remember. This fight cannot be victorious if things just “go back” to the way things were a couple days ago before the Supreme Court decision. Our individual freedom should not rely on the regulation of other’s freedom.  

Voter Redistricting 

As the 2022 Election cycle approached, the New York Court of Appeals struck down a map passed by Democratic legislators. Chief Judge Janet DiFiore asserted that the map, “violated the state’s 2014 constitutional amendment that established an Independent Redistricting Commission and banned racial/partisan gerrymandering.” The maps were found to be “an extreme Democratic gerrymander,” by the Court of Appeals, leading to the appointment of Special Master Jonathan Cervas to redraw the Congressional and State Senate maps after the independent commission failed to reach a consensus.  

In the hours leading up to midnight of May 20, a New York State court approved Cervas’s new maps. The new maps resulted in 16 Democratic-leaning seats, six Republican-leaning seats, and four highly competitive seats. Redistricting changes can be observed here, in these interactional maps. 

Impacts of Redistricting 

New York State Supreme Court Judge Patrick McAllister determined that having an August primary would leave enough time for a court-appointed Special Master to draw the new lines, and for new candidates who might decide to run in the revised districts to collect petitions to get on the ballot. Therefore, the primary for Assembly and statewide offices (including the races for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, and U.S. Senate) took place on June 28, while the State Senate and Congressional primary took place on August 23. General Election Day will take place on Tuesday, November 8, with early voting taking place the 10 days prior. Click here to find early polling locations and for more information about voting in the General Election.  

For PPHP Action Fund’s region, the redistricting results in the following changes in elected official representation: 

  • 1 Congressional Representative lost in Suffolk County 

  • 1 Congressional Representative lost in Rockland County 

  • 1 New York State Senator lost in Suffolk County 

  • Changes in district territories  resulted in multiple incumbents running for reelection in differently numbered districts 

Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, the state-wide advocacy organization, distributed its Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights Questionnaire to all state-level candidates running Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, and Suffolk counties. This questionnaire asks candidates where they stand on issues like access to health care, abortion access, comprehensive sex education, maternal mortality, and funding for preventive care and birth control. There are also questions addressing intersectional issues, such as immigration or voting rights. Each candidate who returned a questionnaire received a score which reflected how they responded to questions.  

The higher the score – the more supportive of sexual and reproductive health and rights. 

Please find the most up-to-date list of candidate scores and get educated on candidates’ views on sexual and reproductive health care and rights in your area by clicking here

Preparing Your Health For Campus by Liz Zimmerman, PPHP Action Fund Board Chair 

On August 2, 2022, PPHP Action Fund’s Public Affairs team presented a webinar titled “Preparing Your Health for Campus,” to assist students attending college in abortion-restricted states.  The reproductive rights landscape is confusing since the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade.  Some states have or are expected to enact abortion bans, while others have new restrictions.  Yet others have long-standing laws on the books that were not enforced during the almost 50 years that Roe was in place but may now be resurrected at the whim of those states’ Attorneys General.  

The Public Affairs team covered the variety of abortion restrictions throughout the country, as well as how to find resources and obtain reproductive care in an abortion-restricted state. This interactive map provides abortion policies in each state, as well as key information including driving distance to the nearest clinic.

Before a student leaves for school, it is important to evaluate birth control options, including long-acting reversible contraception such as IUDS and implants, as well as emergency contraception and barrier methods.  Once at school, if the need arises students can find a verified abortion provider by searching at the Abortionfinder website. The site contains a directory of over 700 providers offering in-person and virtual abortion services.   

For those who need assistance with travel arrangements and expenses, abortion funds are available. The National Network of Abortion Funds has a website that can help students find local funds and providers. Local Planned Parenthood affiliates may also have partnerships in neighboring states where abortion is legal.   

New York’s abortion fund is available for out-of-state travel to New York to access care.  The New York State Attorney General and reproductive rights organizations have created a hotline to assist nonresidents with legal questions regarding travel to New York for an abortion.  The hotline number is 212-899-5567 and it is available in 12 languages.  

We discussed Crisis Pregnancy Centers, fake clinics usually located near and designed to resemble legitimate reproductive health care centers. They do not provide comprehensive reproductive health care, but instead use false advertising to trick vulnerable pregnant people. They lie, shame and pressure them about their reproductive choices, thereby often causing a delay or pushing people past the deadline for a legal abortion.  You can find information here.

We encouraged advocacy in students’ new communities. Over 350 campuses have Planned Parenthood Generation or Generation Action (“PPGen” or “PPGenAction”) chapters.  These activists mobilize advocates, raise public awareness, educate young people, and create change in their communities.  Find information here. Students can also organize fundraisers to support local abortion funds.  A list of funds by state can be found here

Organizations such as #FactorItIn encourage prospective students to factor reproductive freedom into the equation when choosing a school. They believe that a decrease of applicants to schools in states that ban abortion – and the resulting loss of out-of-state revenue - will put pressure on those states’ legislatures to legalize abortion.    

Most importantly, students must make sure they are registered to vote, either in their new state or via absentee ballot!  

Reproductive Health Care Facilities Access Act Passed in Westchester County 

On Monday, June 20, the Westchester Board of Legislators voted to approve a law ensuring safe access to reproductive health care facilities: the Reproductive Health Care Facilities Access Act (RHCFAA). Westchester County Executive George Latimer signed the act into law immediately after its approval by the Board with a 15-2 vote. This law protects health care workers and patients seeking medical care from being obstructed from entering or exiting a reproductive health care facility and from harassing behavior from persons within specific distances of the premises. The act establishes a 25-foot no-harassment zone around the facility's perimeter and creates an 8-foot, protective personal “space-bubble” surrounding each person within 100 feet of the facility. 

Past Danger to Reproductive Health Care Facilities in Westchester County 

In December of 2021, three men were found guilty of criminal trespassing for illegally going on the grounds of a private medical office, All Women’s Health & Medical Services, in Westchester County. The three men spent two hours trying to convince patients not to have abortions; two of them stayed in the waiting room while one was on the floor blocking the entrance to the office. These men were affiliated with “Red Rose Rescue,” a religious group with anti-abortion stances. All were arrested by White Plains Police and had to be physically carried out of the office. The new law will protect patients from this kind of physical and verbal harassment as they utilize reproductive health care services in Westchester County.  

Needed Now More Than Ever 

One of the legislation’s original sponsors, Chairwoman Catherine Borgia, spoke about the importance of this bill in the wake of Dobbs v. JWHO, "Any person who travels to our county seeking reproductive care can access it safely without intimidation or provocation. I hope other counties can see the urgency and importance of this law and consider it for their jurisdiction, as well." Individuals coming from out of state to Westchester County for access to reproductive health care will be protected with the RHFACA. 

To read more about the Reproductive Health Care Facilities Access Act’s details and specifications click here.  

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