The New York City Council’s Women’s Caucus pushed to codify the right to an abortion and update the existing Equal Rights Amendment in the State Constitution. They were backed by the New York State Senate Majority this past weekend in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
In New York State, abortion is protected under the Reproductive Health Act as health care. Lawmakers worry that will not be enough in the future, so they’ve banded together to make sure the city and state are always protected from federal laws.
Councilmembers Amanda Farías, Tiffany Cabán, Lynn Schulman, Carlina Rivera, Julie Menin, Shahana Hanif, Crystal Hudson and others held a conference on Thursday, June 30 to discuss the package of 13 laws they sponsored.
“It’s going to take more than marches and clever signs. It’s going to take more than voting for candidates,” said Caban. “It’s going to take courageous action.”
The city’s legislation moves to protect access to safe abortion and reproductive health care while also safe-guarding against discrimination for ethnicities, women, trans, and gender non-conforming individual New Yorkers. The women-led council intends to build upon funding for abortions by establishing an abortion fund with $250,000 annual city budget allocations as well. The funds will help those in and traveling to the state get access to care.
The proposed legislative package highlights many areas of abortion access and care such as language services or requiring the abortion pill to be available free of charge at health centers. The bills require the city to produce reports on medical services related to reproductive health care and pregnancy crisis centers.
But more importantly, the laws move to officially declare the city a “safe city” where protections under the Human Rights Law (HRL) and a “private right of action” keep travelers from being pursued as criminals or sued in their home states after receiving an abortion in New York. There is a measure that would also allow out-of-state physicians to provide reproductive health services in this state while awaiting full licensure, said the city council.
“The ending of Roe is the single greatest assault on reproductive rights in our nation’s history. We will not be intimidated,” said Hanif. “Let’s be clear, this decision does not end abortions. It ends safe and legal abortions in dozens of states across the country.”
Hanif said she is also pushing for $500,000 in funding for abortion access and related costs.
The Senate Majority advanced the bills the city council proposed in the State Constitution under the ‘Expanding Protected Classes Under the Equal Rights Amendment’ resolution. They also updated the existing Equal Rights Amendment, which protects against discrimination on the basis of sex, disability, national origin, ethnicity, and age. The Senate drilled down on protecting equal and civil rights, such as marriage equality, that the Supreme Court justices have threatened to overturn in the future.
Hudson said that simply put this is an issue of combating racism, economic inequity, and misogyny within the federal government. “In the eyes of the federal government, as a gay Black woman, my very existence is on the line. That’s the reality of this decision. Its implications are far reaching. They’re dangerous,” said Hudson.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement that the reversal of Roe v. Wade made it clear that the state must continue to stand up and be a national leader to protect women and individual rights.
“That is why we are proactively codifying broader equal rights under the law and ensuring the constitutional right to abortion and contraception in New York,” said Stewart-Cousins. “This is a massive step forward for our state while others move backwards, and an important stance against the Supreme Court’s attacks on our rights.”
Additionally, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams put forth a proposal for the U.S. Senate and President Joe Biden to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w