NYCLU Celebrates Proposed Legislation Protecting Reproductive Health and Privacy for New York Women

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
April 26, 2007 12:00 am

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In Face of Federal Attacks on Right to Choose, Bill Would Ensure State Remains Safe Haven for Women Seeking Reproductive Health Care

NEW YORK – The New York Civil Liberties Union today applauded Governor Eliot Spitzer’s pledge to introduce legislation that would update New York’s reproductive rights law to protect reproductive rights for all New Yorkers.

“The modernization of New York State’s abortion law is now necessary to protect women’s right to choose, and the NYCLU applauds the governor’s leadership in spearheading the process at this critical moment,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU Executive Director. “The 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 Alliance for Women’s Health, which the NYCLU helped organize a year ago along with Planned Parenthood New York City, NARAL Pro-Choice New York, Family Planning Advocates of New York State, and other allies, had urged the governor to support the bill. The NYCLU also played a key role in drafting the proposal on which the bill is

“The governor’s bill protects 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,” said Galen Sherwin, Interim Director of the NYCLU Reproductive Rights Project. “Given last week’s Supreme Court decision, which sharply constricts constitutional protection for the right to choose, it is crucial that New York update its laws so as to protect women’s fundamental right to health care.”

New York liberalized its abortion law in 1970, before the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade. Cases since Roe as well as changes in health care delivery have made New York’s existing law antiquated. Current state law, for example, bans abortion after 24 weeks except when necessary to preserve a woman’s life. Federal precedents have made the ban on abortion after 24 weeks unenforceable when abortion is needed to protect a woman’s health, but the New York ban could become effective should the federal courts rule that abortion restrictions need not contain exceptions to protect women’s health. The proposed bill would eliminate that gap.

The legislation would also contain provisions to protect a range of reproductive decisions. Among the most important provisions, the NYCLU said, are the following:

  • The law would create a reproductive right of privacy. The bill would protect individuals’ rights to make private reproductive decisions, including the right to choose or refuse contraception, the right to choose or refuse to bear a child as well as the right to terminate a pregnancy before fetal viability or when necessary to
  • protect life or health.
  • The bill would make it unlawful to discriminate in the regulation or provision of, or access to, health services — guarding, for example, against refusals to provide assisted reproductive services to same sex couples.
  • The law would secure the right to abortion. The draft bill would allow a woman to end a pregnancy until viability or at any time necessary to protect the life or health of the woman. It would define “viability” in a way that would protect health providers from being second-guessed on decisions regarding fetal viability.

The NYCLU will advocate for the passage of the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act when it is introduced in the legislature. More information will be available online at:

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