The Republican presidential campaign feels like a strange detour to the 1950s. The candidates have been mired in a debate on contraception and women’s reproductive health that is outdated, offensive, and out of touch with mainstream America. Similarly, in states across the country, Republican legislators have been engaging in an assault on women’s reproductive rights. From South Dakota to Virginia, a wave of state legislatures have sought to curtail these rights with extreme measures that place unnecessary roadblocks on women’s ability to have choice in their health care decisions. Unfortunately, the tide of radical ideology on women’s health has reached the Empire State.
New York has historically held a proud role as a leader on women’s health issues, yet a bill to modernize the laws on reproductive health, known as the Reproductive Health Act, is stalled in the State Senate. Gov. Cuomo and the State Assembly are both in favor of the Reproductive Health Act, as is a broad swath of New Yorkers who believe our laws on reproductive health should reflect the times in which we live.
What does the Reproductive Health Act do? First, it removes outdated laws, struck down by the Supreme Court long ago, that still remain part of the state’s statutes. Currently, New York is the only state where a woman’s right to choose is regulated through the state’s criminal law. State law also fails to provide a health exception for a mother whose life may be at risk during pregnancy. The Reproductive Health Act would change all of that. It would modernize these archaic laws, including taking them out of the criminal code, and provide for the safety of women here in New York.
Moreover, in addition to modernizing our laws, the Reproductive Health Act codifies as state law the protections afforded to women under Roe v. Wade. It’s a scary reality, and one we as New Yorkers can’t control, that the U.S. Supreme Court may be just one justice away from overturning federal protections for choice. What we can control is what we do right here in New York. The Reproductive Health Act affirms that women in New York have the right to privacy and the right to choice, and that those rights will be protected, even if Roe v. Wade is overturned.
I am proud to support the Reproductive Health Act and will campaign vigorously for it throughout my race for the State Senate.
My opponent, Sen. Greg Ball, has stood in stubborn opposition to the Reproductive Health Act. By joining his Republican colleagues to block this much needed legislation, Senator Ball is standing firmly against the ability of women to have choice in their healthcare decisions. Recently, Senator Ball sent a mailer—at taxpayer expense of course—bragging about his “solid pro-life voting record.” With the pressure of a potential Republican primary battle looming, one could venture a guess as to why Senator Ball decided to send this mailer now. But to be fair, Senator Ball has been consistent in standing against the rights of women to control their own bodies. Last year, Ball was the headline speaker for “Lobby for Life” day in Albany, where he implored activists to spread the pro-life message throughout the state capitol.
Ball’s anti-choice record and his opposition to the Reproductive Health Act are wrong and don’t represent the beliefs of the majority of us here in the Hudson Valley. Seven other states have already passed laws like the Reproductive Health Act—New York needs to reclaim our position as a pro-choice leader by passing the bill. As New Yorkers, we can’t control Rick Santorum’s views on contraception or some loony proposal from a state legislature in Virginia, but we can and should ensure that women in New York are afforded the right to privacy and choice in their healthcare decisions.
Justin Wagner is a Democratic lawyer living in the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, he is currently campaigning for the 40th New York State Senate district against Sen. Greg Ball (R, C- Patterson).