New York City Bar Association Supports Reproductive Health Act, Urges Senate to Bring Bill to Vote Before End of Session

The New York City Bar Association, through its Sex and Law Committee and Health Law Committee, has renewed its support for the Reproductive Health Act and is calling on the New York State Senate to bring the bill to the floor for a vote before session ends on Wednesday, June 21. In accordance with its long-standing commitment to upholding the principles of individual liberty and tradition of supporting the freedom of women to make private health care decisions and reproductive choices, the City Bar urges passage of the bill without delay. The Assembly passed the Reproductive Health Act at the start of the Legislative session in January.

New York State was initially at the forefront in protecting women’s health and reproductive freedom, amending sections of its Penal Law in 1970, three years before the landmark Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, to provide an exception to the total ban on abortion, permitting abortions performed within 24 weeks of commencement of the pregnancy, or in cases where the woman’s life is at risk. While a critical step at the time, New York’s law has not been substantially changed since, and is now outdated and inadequate. As discussed in the City Bar’s report, New York’s law “contains archaic provisions that fail to comply with subsequent Supreme Court decisions, prevents health care providers from offering the best reproductive care, impedes women’s ability to make the decisions that are right for themselves and their families, and creates a looming threat of prosecution for women who end their own pregnancies.”

The Reproductive Health Act removes provisions governing abortion and self-abortion from the New York State Penal Law and places them where they belong, in the Public Health Law. It further addresses a gap in the existing law that fails to take into account abortions later in pregnancy that are necessary for women’s health or when the fetus is not viable. And finally, it clears the way for advanced-practice clinicians acting within the scope of their practice to perform early abortions.

The City Bar’s report also notes that the Act affirmatively recognizes, “for the first time in New York State statutory law, ‘that comprehensive reproductive health care, including contraception and abortion, is a fundamental component of a woman’s health, privacy and equality.’” Accordingly, it codifies for the first time as “the public policy of New York State that every individual possesses a fundamental right of privacy and equality with respect to their personal reproductive decisions and should be able to safely effectuate those decisions, including by seeking and obtaining abortion care, free from discrimination in the provision of health care.” The Act further provides that laws and regulations governing abortion must be in furtherance of a legitimate interest in protecting women’s health, and should not burden abortion access, in accordance with Supreme Court precedent.

In light of increasing threats to abortion access across the United States and at the federal level, the City Bar believes “it is imperative that New York once again step up as a leader committed to protecting and affirming women’s ability to effectuate their own reproductive health care decisions.” The City Bar urges the Senate to join with the Assembly in recognizing a woman’s right to the full range of reproductive health options afforded by Roe v. Wade and pass the Reproductive Health Act.

The report can be read here:

About the Association
The New York City Bar Association, since its founding in 1870, has been dedicated to maintaining the high ethical standards of the legal profession, promoting reform of the law and access to justice, and providing service to the profession and the public. The Association, through its 24,000 members, continues to work for political, legal and social reform, while implementing innovative means to help the disadvantaged. Protecting the public’s welfare remains one of the Association’s highest priorities.