RHAP cheers the passage of New York State’s Reproductive Health Act (RHA). First proposed to the New York State legislature nearly a decade ago, the RHA faced an uphill battle. After passing several times in the New York State House, the bill languished in the Republican-controlled New York Senate. The 2018 midterm elections changed the legislative landscape, leading to RHA’s passage into law on January 22, 2019.
The RHA modernizes New York State’s abortion laws, taking them out of the criminal code and bringing them into the public health arena. The bill keeps abortion legal in New York State no matter what happens to federal abortion laws in the future. The RHA removes the physician-only statute, codifying the essential role of advance practice clinicians (that is, nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, and nurse midwives) in abortion care. The RHA allows abortion beyond 24 weeks gestational age if needed for health of the mother or a lethal fetal anomaly.
Passage of the RHA has inspired vocal criticism from anti-choice activists. Their publicity focuses on later abortions, raising false threats of abortions close to term. This backlash is affecting the passage of similar legislation proposed in other states like Virginia and Vermont. The storm of controversy provoked by the RHA’s passage demonstrates that we have lots of work ahead, both in New York State and in the rest of the country. Preserving reproductive rights is an ongoing struggle.