New York has an obligation to continue the legacy of Roe V. Wade

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman
Office of the State Attorney General
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

New York has an obligation to continue the legacy of Roe V. Wade

45 years after the landmark decision.
January 22, 2018

On this day in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide, a monumental step forward in enabling people to decide when and how they want to build their families and plan their futures. Today, 45 years later, the right to self-determination guaranteed by Roe v. Wade is at risk of being overturned more than ever. That’s why, right now, we must do everything in our power to protect and secure abortion access in New York.

Our state has a proud history of trailblazing when it comes to sexual and reproductive rights. In fact, New York State legalized abortion three years before Roe was decided.

But we’ve failed to keep up with the times. New York state law currently provides weaker abortion protections than are guaranteed by the Supreme Court, which means that if the Court overturns Roe, New Yorkers could immediately lose critical protections.

As a result of New York’s outdated law, some abortion providers still refuse to provide abortions later in pregnancy because, while medically necessary to preserve the pregnant woman’s health (and thus protected under Roe), New York law states that abortion is only “justifiable” when performed within 24 weeks or to preserve the woman’s life. Not only is the state statute more narrowly drawn than the Roe standard, but because abortion remains a part of New York’s penal law, some of these abortion providers fear criminal prosecution. This has forced New York women to travel to states as far as Colorado to access the abortion care they should be able to get at home.

Attorney General Schneiderman – by issuing an important legal opinion in 2016 – has done everything within his power to protect abortion access and reassure abortion providers that New York’s outdated statutes cannot be used to prosecute providers who perform abortions that are permissible under Roe.

But with the fate of Roe hanging in the balance of a rapidly changing Supreme Court, we must act now to codify Roe’s protections into New York state law.

Planned Parenthood of New York City has pledged to never stop providing care – no matter what. However, New Yorkers deserve the peace of mind that only an updated state abortion statute can provide.

It is crucial to pass legislation protecting these rights so that those protections remain in place here, regardless of what happens at the federal level.

Under the Trump administration, we are just one Supreme Court appointment away from Roe v. Wade being overturned, and the disappearance of access to safe, legal abortion nationwide.

Restrictions to abortion access and the criminalization of providers and patients are mounting across the country. We are seeing hundreds of restrictions being introduced and passed in state after state. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is holding immigrants hostage in an attempt to block their constitutional right to obtain an abortion. This past week, HHS took unprecedented steps to block access to care for women, LGBTQ people and other marginalized people by setting up an office designed to ensure that individuals can be denied access to basic health care and information based on their providers’s personal beliefs.

Fortunately, Schneiderman is leading a coalition of state attorneys general to fight back against the Trump administration’s dangerous, anti-choice maneuvers.

But as Trump and others attempt to gut Roe’s protections, we must fill in the gaps and close the loopholes so that New Yorkers – and anyone who needs to access an abortion in New York – is protected.

New York has long been a leader on this front, but it is high time to enshrine these fundamental rights in our public health law. The governor’s recently proposed executive budget included language that would remove abortion from the penal code, and put it in the health code where it belongs. We must fight to ensure that provision is passed in Albany this year.

As the birthplace of so many important progressive movements, New York has an opportunity and an obligation to stand up for reproductive health access and uphold the legacy of Roe v. Wade. New Yorkers cannot afford to wait.

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Eric Schneiderman
is the New York state attorney general.
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Laura McQuade
is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City.
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