Family Planning Advocates urge passage of women’s health bill this session

More than 400 advocates gathered at the Capitol today to urge lawmakers and Gov. Cuomo to make the Reproductive Health Act law this session. “Seven out of 10 New Yorkers want the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) passed because it guarantees that all women in New York will have the right to make decisions about pregnancy, including the right to choose or refuse contraception and to have an abortion,” said Family Planning Advocates President and CEO M. Tracey Brooks. “New Yorkers hold as a core value a woman’s decision-making ability about her reproductive health care.”

 “Not only do all of us here today believe New York needs to pass the Reproductive Health Act, but 59 percent of New Yorkers surveyed who identify themselves as Catholic believe it should be passed, too,” Brooks explained. “RHA is in line with New Yorkers’ support for allowing a woman to make personal, private health care decisions.”

 “New York learned a very important lesson in 2011. We cannot rely on national leaders to protect our core values. New York has to do it,” Brooks stressed. She cited a December 2011 survey of registered voters conducted by Lake Research Partners that shows 56 percent of New Yorkers are concerned about the possibility that the federal government could make abortion illegal. “When more than half of New Yorkers are concerned about women’s health care decisions being taken away from them, it is time for New York to move forward for women’s health care by passing the Reproductive Health Act.

RHA ensures that a woman will be able to have an abortion if her health is endangered. It also guarantees that all New Yorkers will have the right to choose or refuse contraception and changes current law so that regulation of abortion is no longer in the criminal law but is in the public health and medical practice section of the law.

“Clergy devote countless hours offering counsel and support to women and families facing medical decisions,” said Concerned Clergy for Choice Director Rabbi Dennis Ross. “Our pastoral experience demonstrates that women take these decisions very seriously. It is time to stand with our loved ones and pass the Reproductive Health Act.”

When facing an unplanned pregnancy, the reality is that most women receive counseling on pregnancy options, seek spiritual guidance and/or discuss their options with trusted friends or family. It is not a simple choice. A majority decide to continue their pregnancy, raise their baby or choose adoption. Some decide to end their pregnancy. Whatever they decide, women take time to thoughtfully consider their decision, and we should support and respect whatever choice each woman makes, Brooks stressed. “The survey also showed that 57 percent of those who say they are anti-choice agree that a woman’s decision should be supported and respected,” Brooks noted.

Brooks also pointed to the overwhelming support for providing comprehensive sex education to students, another legislative priority for FPA this session. “Seventy-seven (77) percent of those surveyed favor teaching comprehensive sex education in New York’s public schools,” Brooks said. “Comprehensive sex education is what parents say they want, students say they need and science says works.”

FPA member support for the Reproductive Health Act and access to comprehensive reproductive health care and education is extremely strong:

Planned Parenthood of Nassau County President & CEO, JoAnn D. Smith said, “We believe that women’s rights are human rights, and Planned Parenthood of Nassau County is committed to working here on Long Island and with our partners across the state to ensure that RHA is passed. It’s not only what our community wants, but it’s what the women in New York need to stay healthy and safe.”

Planned Parenthood of New York City President and CEO Joan Malin said, “In the 12 years I have been with Planned Parenthood of New York City I have looked forward to the day that the State Legislature would strengthen New York’s legacy of protecting women’s health. As a long-time New Yorker, I have wished for a State that would strengthen the rights of our mothers, our sisters and our daughters. I now look forward to the New York State lawmakers passing the Reproductive Health Act, and our state re-asserting itself as a place that values the health, lives and realities of women.”

Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic President and CEO Reina Schiffrin said, “I urge state lawmakers to be statesmen on behalf of the health and safety of New York’s women and families and pass the Reproductive Health Act this year.  A woman facing an unplanned pregnancy should have the opportunity to make the healthiest decision for herself and her family, whether her decision is continuing the pregnancy, adoption or abortion. That is what the Reproductive Health Act ensures.”

Planned Parenthood of the Rochester/Syracuse Region President and CEO Jim Stewart said, “The Reproductive Health Act signals that New York will continue to protect and respect a woman’s right to make private reproductive health care decisions.  It is a needed and long overdue step towards ensuring the health and safety of women in New York.”

Planned Parenthood of the Southern Finger Lakes President and CEO Joe Sammons said,”Last year, we saw anti-choice politicians nationwide go to new lengths to dismantle women’s reproductive rights. New York can no longer afford to be complacent about defending those rights, assuming that federal laws will protect them.  The time to pass RHA is now.”

Planned Parenthood of Western New York Chief Executive Officer Karen J. Nelson said,“In these tough economic times, now more than ever, Western New Yorkers need access to safe, legal, and comprehensive reproductive health care services.”

Family Planning Advocates of New York State is a non-profit, statewide organization dedicated to protecting and expanding access to a full range of reproductive health care services. FPA represents New York’s Planned Parenthood affiliates and other family planning centers, as well as hundreds of organizations and thousands of individual members.