NYCLU Joins Senate Democrats in Backing Proposed Legislation Protecting Reproductive Health and Privacy

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
May 8, 2007 12:00 am

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Bill Would Ensure State Remains Safe Haven for Women Seeking Care

NEW YORK – The New York Civil Liberties Union today joined Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith and the Senate Democrats in supporting the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act, which would update New York law to protect reproductive rights for all New Yorkers.

“The NYCLU applauds the leadership of the governor and the Senate Democrats in spearheading the modernization of New York State’s abortion law at this critical moment and protecting women’s right to choose,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “The governor’s proposal provides strong protections that will ensure that New York State remains a beacon for choice in the face of broad federal attacks on reproductive health and women’s rights.”

The bill would enact the “Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act” under the Public Health Law, while amending or repealing various antiquated statutes. The NYCLU, along with other allies in the pro-choice movement, played a key role in drafting the proposal on which the bill is based. The bill would create an affirmative right to abortion, which New York law currently lacks, and would ensure that women’s health is a primary concern in the regulation of abortion. It would protect privacy in reproductive decision-making, safeguarding not only the right to end a pregnancy but also the right to bear a child and the right to use or refuse birth control. And it would expand access to needed services by eliminating unnecessary and outdated restrictions.

“Given the Supreme Court’s recent ruling constricting constitutional protection for the right to choose, it is crucial that New York update its own laws to protect women’s fundamental right to privacy in making reproductive healthcare decisions,” said Galen Sherwin, Interim Director of the NYCLU Reproductive Rights Project. “Every member of the Legislature, Democrat and Republican alike, owes it to the women of New York to enact this important and timely legislation.”

New York liberalized its abortion law in 1970 – three years before the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade. The law was revolutionary at the time, but subsequent legal cases and changes in health care delivery have made New York’s existing law antiquated. Current state statutes, for example, ban all abortions after 24 weeks except when necessary to preserve a woman’s life. Up until now, federal precedents have made such a ban unenforceable when abortion is needed to protect a woman’s health. But the Supreme Court’s recent decision significantly weakened these federal constitutional protections, and suggests that the Court may not stand by this precedent. The state bill would therefore write the health exception into New York law and preserve women’s rights from further erosion.

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