FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 16, 2017
Contact: Christie Petrone, 646-520-3504, cpetrone@nirhealth.org

Facing Attacks at the Federal Level, Local and State Champions are Critical to Protecting and Expanding Access to Contraception, Abortion, Sex Education

NEW YORK — The National Institute for Reproductive Health applauds New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito today for prioritizing reproductive and sexual health in the annual State of the City address. Mark-Viverito unveiled a new sexual health education task force, proposed funding for birth control, and urged the state Senate to pass the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) — three interconnected pieces necessary to improve reproductive health outcomes among New York women.

“The onslaught of attacks happening at the federal level — from the reinstatement and expansion of the Global Gag Rule, to the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act (including affordable access to contraception), to legislation to make permanent the Hyde Amendment banning public insurance coverage of abortion — requires even greater vigilance at the state and local level,” said Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health. “The New York City Council’s bold agenda will not only enhance the lives of New York women, but also will serve as a model for elected officials in other localities to follow.”

Declaring that “we will not let the federal government decide what happens to our uteruses,” Mark-Viverito boldly affirmed New York City’s commitment to contraception and abortion access and pledged to advocate for comprehensive sex education for all students.

Mark-Viverito’s proposal includes funding for contraception for women who are either uninsured or have insurance coverage with loopholes that exclude no-co-pay contraception. The sex education task force will review the current implementation of sex education and make recommendations for improvement and expansion or replacement. As a leader of the Sexuality Education Alliance of New York City (SEANYC), the National Institute advocates for comprehensive sexual health education for students at all grade levels in public schools.

New York City has a long history of leadership on reproductive rights: The City Council has adopted — at the urging of the National Institute and its partners — ordinances protecting access to reproductive health clinics; requiring “crisis pregnancy centers” to maintain women’s confidentiality and inform the public that they do not provide medical care; mandating that pharmacies post visible signage if they do not have emergency contraception in stock; and requiring that emergency contraception be available to sexual assault victims in emergency rooms, regardless of the hospital’s religious affiliation. The City Council has also established a volunteer initiative for City Council officials and staff to train to become clinic escorts to protect patients at abortion clinics across the city and established the Young Women’s Initiative to identify the gaps in services for young women.

The New York City Council’s leadership on contraception, abortion, and sex education aligns with the national trend of cities and states advancing legislation aimed at improving reproductive and sexual health and protecting those rights. In 2016, 36 states and the District of Columbia saw action on 191 proactive policies, 80 of which became law.

Recent examples of cities taking affirmative steps to safeguard reproductive health includes St. Louis’ passage this week of  a Reproductive Health and Pregnancy Nondiscrimination Ordinance, San Francisco’s passage of a “Resolution responding to the election of Donald Trump and reaffirming [the city]’s commitment to the values of inclusivity, respect, and dignity,” and the reaffirmation by mayors of several sanctuary cities of their commitment to protecting undocumented immigrants, a stance that increases access to reproductive health care by ensuring all residents feel safe accessing publicly funded reproductive health care services.

These policy changes are buttressed by the recent outpouring of opposition to the Trump administration and demonstration of support for progressive values including reproductive rights at the Women’s Marches that took place in cities large and small across the country. These new initiatives join ongoing efforts supported by the National Institute for Reproductive Health and All* Above All, begun in 2012 and continuing to this day, to secure resolutions in nearly a dozen localities, including New York City, in support of abortion coverage for low-income women.

President Trump has been clear that if anti-choice Supreme Court justices overturn Roe v. Wade, women seeking abortions in hostile environments “will have to go to another state.” The nomination of Neil Gorsuch for Supreme Court suggests that Trump is following through with his anti-choice agenda and increases the urgency of enacting state legislation like the RHA and Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (CCCA), two critical bills passed last month by the state Assembly that would safeguard access to abortion and contraception in New York.

The CCCA would establish in state law ACA advancements like no co-pays for the full range of contraceptive methods, and goes even further by including male contraceptives and emergency contraception and enabling up to 12 months of contraception at a time. The RHA would enshrine into state law the right to choose abortion as originally recognized in Roe (including a health exception later in pregnancy), and would ensure abortion is regulated as a public health, not a criminal, matter.

“We applaud our City Council’s commitment to access to the full range of reproductive health services and willingness to stand up against threats at the federal level and in many other states,” said Miller. “New York must remain the beacon for women facing barriers to reproductive justice in their own states.”

###

The National Institute for Reproductive Health works across the country to increase access to reproductive health care by changing public policy, galvanizing public support, and normalizing women’s decisions to have abortions and use contraception.