Last month, on the 46th anniversary of landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States, New York State passed our own historic legislation — the Reproductive Health Act (RHA). This bill is critical to securing reproductive freedom in New York state, with mounting attacks on our health care coming from the Trump-Pence administration, and is such an important and hard-won victory.
Since it passed, we have seen the vile spread of misinformation on the bill and its implications. Here are five facts that you need to know about the RHA:
1.The RHA simply enshrines the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law.
New York State legalized abortion in 1970, three years before the U.S. Supreme Court did nationally through the Roe v. Wade decision. However, since then, the state has failed to update its abortion law, preventing health care providers from providing the best care for their patients and forcing many of their patients to leave the state for care. New York activists lobbied for over a decade for state law to mirror Roe, only to hit a roadblock in the State Senate. Now, with a new pro-sexual and reproductive health majority elected to the Senate, this long-overdue legislation has finally been enacted into law.
Since 1973, a pregnant person has had the right to have an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy if their health or life is at risk, or their pregnancy is not viable. But prior to the passage of RHA, abortion laws were housed in criminal code, making many providers in New York wary of providing care past 24 weeks regardless of circumstances. The RHA simply enshrines this protection into New York state law.
2. The attacks on the RHA aren’t actually about later abortions — they’re an attempt to ultimately outlaw abortion completely.
The overwhelming majority of abortions happen before 24 weeks of pregnancy (90% occur in the first 12 weeks). But in the rare cases after 24 weeks that a patient’s health or life is at risk, or their pregnancy is not viable, patients and their doctors need every option available to them.
The ridiculous claim from anti-abortion extremists that the RHA legalizes abortion up until birth is meant to malign both patients and their health care providers; it stigmatizes necessary health care for pregnant individuals who are dealing with emergent health issues. Let’s set the record straight: there is no such thing as an abortion up until birth.
Anti-abortion activists will do anything to push their agenda to ban safe, legal abortion in this country — including making outlandish accusations that aren’t based in fact or medical science. But we know that the decision about if and when to become a parent should be up to an individual and their doctor — not politicians.
3. The RHA puts the power back where it belongs: in the hands of medical providers and their patients to make the best decisions for their health and lives. It will also make abortion more accessible statewide.
The RHA accomplishes three important things:
Recognizes that abortion is health care, not a crime, by moving abortion law from criminal law to public health law where it belongs.
Brings the protections of Roe v. Wade into state law by ensuring that New Yorkers can access needed care throughout pregnancy when their health or life is endangered, or their pregnancy is not viable.
Clarifies that trained health care providers acting within their scope of practice can provide abortion care. This ensures that more New Yorkers have access to early and safe abortion care.
4. The right to access safe, legal abortion is at risk in this country.
States across the country are chipping away at the ability to access abortion safely and legally. More than 400 abortion restrictions have gone into effect since 2011 — the constitutional right to safe, legal abortion in our country has been eroded to the point that millions across the U.S. do not have access to abortion.
Donald Trump has made it clear that he wants to end access to abortion in this country — saying he believes women should be punished for having an abortion, and appointed Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh who pledged to overturn Roe v. Wade.
That’s one reason why it was so important for New York to protect access here for New Yorkers, and for anyone else who may need to rely on New York for access.
5. New Yorkers support abortion access, and they support the RHA.
New Yorkers, and the American people, issued a mandate in the 2018 elections — they want more access to health care, not less. That’s why New Yorkers elected a historic number of State Senators who support access to abortion, bringing New York a pro-sexual and reproductive health and rights State Senate majority for the first time in decades.
Across New York City and the country, we at Planned Parenthood will continue to fight to ensure that abortion remains safe and legal. We believe deeply in the right of all people — no matter who they are, where they live, or what they earn — to make their own personal decisions about their bodies, their families, and their paths in life, without political interference.