March 13, 2018

Assembly Announces Passage of Legislation to Protect Women's Reproductive Rights and Ensure Access to Options for Family Planning

New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymembers Deborah Glick, Kevin Cahill, Ellen Jaffee and Rebecca A. Seawright today announced passage of three bills that would protect reproductive rights for women and ensure New Yorkers have access to family planning. These bills bring New York State's laws up to date to reflect protections recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States, require insurers provide cost-free contraception coverage mandated and prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive healthcare choices.

"The Assembly majority is a longstanding defender of a person's constitutional rights to privacy and freedom over their reproductive healthcare," Speaker Heastie said. "These four bills passed today will ensure that New Yorkers have access to the family planning services and reproductive healthcare they need. As we see attacks on women's healthcare across the country and from the federal government, we in the Assembly majority will continue the fight to protect a woman's right to choose and to access the quality reproductive healthcare she needs."

"New York has a long history of being a progressive leader in women's reproductive rights, and it's time our laws reflect that," said Assemblymember Glick, sponsor of the Reproductive Health Act. "These laws have not been updated in almost 50 years - since before the passage of Roe v. Wade. I'm proud the Assembly majority is stepping up to enshrine the protection of women's Constitutional rights into state law."

"The Affordable Care Act is clear that access to cost-free family planning is the law. This common-sense legislation clarifies and reaffirms existing law, protecting this important right for New Yorkers regardless of what may happen in Washington. Speaker Heastie, the New York State Assembly majority and I have made it a top priority to ensure that women and men have access to the full array of reproductive health products and services regardless of attempts to dismantle healthcare coverage federally," Assemblymember Cahill added.

"When making reproductive healthcare decisions that are best for her and her family, a woman must consider many factors - retribution from her boss shouldn't be one of them, said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, sponsor of the Boss Bill. "This legislation guarantees New York women the freedom and fundamental right to make reproductive health care decisions without fear of reprisal from their employers, continuing New York's long history of protecting individuals from discrimination in the workplace."

"Equality is a fundamental human right that should be guaranteed in the Constitution," said Assemblymember Seawright, sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment. "The ERA will ensure equal rights for women are in enshrined in New York State law. I'm proud the Assembly majority is taking this important step towards equality, and will continue fighting tirelessly for women in the 76th district and across the state and country."

The Reproductive Health Act (A.1748, Glick) aligns New York State law with protections guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. The bill removes abortion from the Penal Law which was enacted three years before the Roe v. Wade decision. This update acknowledges that abortion is a lawful medical procedure and eliminates undue burdens on women seeking to exercise their right to make reproductive decisions. Under the proposal, duly licensed health care practitioners may perform the procedure within 24 weeks of pregnancy, when there is an absence of fetal viability, or when necessary to protect the woman's life or health.

The Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act (A.9957, Cahill), would codify in New York State Insurance Law the requirement under the federal Affordable Care Act that all health insurers provide cost-free contraceptive coverage as a part of their insurance policies. Under the proposal, insurance companies would have to provide cost-free coverage for at least one type of all FDA-approved contraceptives, including emergency contraception. The bill would also apply to voluntary sterilization procedures, extending coverage to both men and women, and would prohibit insurance companies from using medical management review restrictions to delay contraceptive coverage. In addition, the measure would also allow patients to receive a 12-month supply of contraception at a time.

The "Boss Bill" (A.00566, Jaffee) would prohibit employers from accessing an employee's personal information regarding reproductive health decision making or imposing any requirements that would obstruct an employee's ability to exercise their right to make these decisions and access related health and medical services. Additionally, the bill would take steps to ensure that employees are notified of their right to freely exercise their reproductive health choices and provides for remedies and penalties for employers who violate these rights.

The Equal Rights Amendment (A.07990, Seawright) would amend the New York State Constitution to prohibit denying equal rights on the basis of sex. The ERA would guarantee the equal rights of men and women in New York and guard against roll backs of women's rights in health, employment, domestic violence and education. The State Constitution currently provides equal rights on the basis of race, color, creed or religion, but does not guarantee equal rights on the basis of sex. In addition to passing the State Senate, this legislation must also be approved by the people of New York State in an election.

New York was the first state to enact laws to safeguard women's reproductive health in 1970, three years before the Supreme Court's Roe vs Wade decision offered federal protection. Since then, the Assembly Majority has continued to pass legislation to expand these protections and promote gender equality. During the last legislative session, the Assembly also passed a measure to protect New Yorkers from employment discrimination based on their reproductive health choices.

"Access to affordable reproductive health care is essential for a healthy New York, and your personal health care decisions should never be your boss's business," said Robin Chappelle Golston, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts. "Thanks to Speaker Carl Heastie and the Assembly Democratic Majority, our state stands up for women's health and well-being."

"With reproductive rights under attack from Washington, New Yorkers need our state to safeguard women's health, dignity and rights," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "Reproductive health care is fundamental for New Yorkers to plan for their families and their futures. Ensuring access to contraception through robust insurance coverage and decriminalizing abortion will strengthen the equality, health and well-being of our communities."

"Once again the Assembly has stood up for the needs of New Yorkers, especially in the face of unprecedented attacks on reproductive rights from the federal government," said Andrea Miller, President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund. "The Reproductive Health Act will decriminalize abortion in New York, and update our nearly 50 year old abortion law which sends women out of state to seek abortion care. The Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act will ensure access to no-copay contraception and improved availability of emergency contraception. A woman's ability to control whether and when to have a child can determine the course of her life and the Assembly has moved New York closer to ensuring that all people, regardless of economic status, have access to a full range of reproductive health care."

"The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, (ACOG) District II strongly supports A.1748 and A.9957 to protect and preserve women's access to fundamental reproductive health care services in this state," said Iffath Abbasi Hoskins, MD, FACOG, Chair, ACOG District II. "Comprehensive contraception care and safe and legal abortion are necessary components of women's health care and care result in significant emotional, personal and economic benefits as well. On behalf of ob-gyns across this state and the patients we serve, I thank the NYS Assembly Speaker and the legislative sponsors for their steadfast leadership in prioritizing women's access to comprehensive care."