Capital Region elected officials and advocates join to urge passage of state’s Reproductive Health Act

Capital Region elected officials stand with reproductive health care advocates to endorse passage of the Reproductive Health Act May 30, 2012

Capital Region elected officials stood with reproductive health care advocates at Albany City Hall today to publicly express their support for the state’s Reproductive Health Act and urge lawmakers in Albany to take action on the bill this session. The Reproductive Health Act has broad support among New York voters across religious and party lines; and, nearly three-quarters believe the bill should become law.

Today’s announcement is part of a statewide campaign that kicked off with a press event in New York City earlier this month. It calls on Governor Cuomo and the leadership of the state Legislature to pass the Reproductive Health Act this session. The campaign includes an open letter to the leadership in Albany, to which local elected officials around the state have signed on.

Right now, women’s basic health care is under attack. Last year alone, 1,100 provisions to restrict or ban reproductive health care, including contraception, were introduced in statehouses across the country, including here in New York. In 1970, New York led the way by giving a woman the right to make her own personal, private health care decisions. By affirming the right to the full range of reproductive health care, New York can lead the way once again. In passing the Reproductive Health Act, New York will stand up to the attacks on women, prioritize women’s health, and begin to turn the tide against the anti-woman agenda sweeping the country.

The Reproductive Health Act guarantees a woman can make her own personal, private health care decisions, especially when her health is endangered during pregnancy. The bill also treats the regulation of abortion as an issue of public health rather than as a potential crime.

Reproductive health care advocates joined with local elected officials in demonstrating strong support for passing the Reproductive Health Act immediately. Representatives of the advocacy groups included:

· Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood President and CEO Patricia McGeown

· Family Planning Advocates of New York State President and CEO M. Tracey Brooks

· New York Civil Liberties Union Albany Chapter Director Melanie Trimble

· NARAL Pro-Choice New York Vice President for Political and Legislative Affairs Sabrina Shulman

New York needs the Reproductive Health Act to close a gap in the state’s current abortion law. A woman can experience serious health complications at any point during pregnancy. This is a tragic situation, often meaning she has to choose between protecting her health or continuing with a very wanted but risky pregnancy. Current New York law compounds that tragedy when it happens late in pregnancy by making it a potential crime to provide an abortion to protect her health. The Reproductive Health Act will ensure she can get the safe, legal abortion care she may need.

Further, ever since 1970, when abortion became legal in New York, abortion care has been regulated in the state’s criminal code. Fear of criminal prosecution deters health care providers from offering the best reproductive health care under certain circumstances often requiring a woman to travel to another state for safe, legal abortion if that’s what she decides is best for her. With one of the best medical systems in the nation and some of the most talented and compassionate providers, it is unconscionable that this tragic situation is compounded by forcing a woman to seek care elsewhere. The Reproductive Health Act ensures that doctors can provide that care right here in New York. We need to remove the regulation of abortion from the criminal law and put it in the public health law, where all other health services are regulated.

Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood President and CEO Patricia McGeown said, “I am proud to live and work in Albany; to stand here with so many local elected officials who are willing to take a stand out of concern for the women and families they represent. New York’s current law on abortion fails to fully protect the health and lives of women; a failure that must be addressed without further delay. I urge the Governor and our state leaders to follow the lead of our local officials and pass the Reproductive Health Act now.”

Family Planning Advocates of New York State President and CEO M. Tracey Brooks said, “Legislators may say they have accomplished a lot this year, but their work is not complete without passage of this much-needed health care bill. The Reproductive Health Act has the support of seven out of 10 New York voters AND will protect a woman’s health when it is endangered during pregnancy, leaving little question as to the importance of passing this measure.”

New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said, “New York needs the Reproductive Health Act. This important legislation not only strengthens reproductive rights, it supports equality, dignity and healthy families.”

NARAL Pro-Choice New York President Andrea Miller said, “New York has a singular opportunity this year to do something no other state is doing – make crystal clear that women’s health is a priority, not a political football. Governor Cuomo and the leaders in the Legislature have heard it from advocates, they’ve heard it from their constituents, and now they’re hearing it from local elected officials in every corner of the state: New Yorkers need this law, New Yorkers want this law, and the time is now to get it done.”