The following are questions from the National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund’s PAC from the endorsement questionnaire for candidates in New York State.

Question 1: The Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that the United States Constitution protects an individual’s right to decide to have an abortion before fetal viability (and later if her life or health is endangered). Do you support this legal precedent and the subsequent decision in the 2016 case Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt?

In 1970, New York became one of the first states to legalize abortion. This historic step helped set the stage for Roe v. Wade (1973) and abortion rights nationwide. Today, the need to actively defend a woman’s reproductive rights is no less critical. Well-organized anti-choice forces continue to erode a woman’s constitutional right to choose around the country. All lawmakers must remain vigilant in their support for Roe v. Wade, and the other crucial Supreme Court decisions that protect abortion rights for women including the 2016 Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstadt decision, which reaffirmed a woman’s constitutional right to access legal abortion and rejected laws intended to shutter abortion clinics with medically unnecessary red tape.

Question 2: Do you oppose abortion bans, including those that ban abortion based on fetal age, ban a particular medical or surgical abortion method, or ban particular reasons for abortion, including sex, race, or fetal health?

A number of states – and even the U.S. House of Representatives – have passed legislation in recent years to ban abortion pre-viability, without even an exception for a woman whose health is endangered during pregnancy. These measures not only undermine the legal standards established in Roe v. Wade, but also endanger women’s health and safety by willfully disregarding the reality that serious health issues can arise at any stage of pregnancy. These abortion bans are a cruel attempt by anti-choice forces to curb access to care for women in the most desperate of circumstances. Abortion bans based on particular reasons like sex, race or fetal health are also red herrings.  Sex-selection bans, which have proliferated around the country as of late, are largely based on racist assumptions about Asian immigrant cultures. There is no data that indicates that sex-selective abortion is a problem in New York or nationwide. Attempts to enforce them would perpetuate further discrimination in their communities through stereotyping and racial profiling of Asian women whose motivations for an abortion would be under suspicion.  At the most practical level, any such restriction would be neither enforceable nor effective, as already demonstrated internationally, but simply serve to restrict access to medical care.

Question 3: Do you support legislation and policies that decriminalize abortion in New York, guarantee that everyone has a right to safe and legal abortion care and expand access to abortion?

In 2019, the Reproductive Health Act became law in New York State. The RHA removed abortion from the criminal code, leaving the regulation of abortion in the health code with other health care.   While it codified the legal standard of Roe, protecting the legal right to abortion in the state, it still codified fetal age based limitations on abortion access. There is continued work to do on ensuring abortion access for all New Yorkers.

Question 5: Do you oppose policies that punish women who induce their own abortions?

Self-managed abortion (sometimes called self-induced or self-abortion) refers to ending a pregnancy on one’s own, outside of a clinical setting and without the involvement of a medical provider. This is often done using the abortion pill and can be safe and effective when taken according to evidence-based recommendations. Women sometimes end their own pregnancies using less safe and effective methods, ranging from herbal remedies to dangerous physical methods. Through heightened rhetoric and legal restrictions on abortion, the federal government and states across the country are making it harder to get an abortion at a medical facility.  At the same time, information about and access to medication abortion has become more widely available. Laws that threaten women with jail time for self-administering an abortion do not deter women from ending their pregnancies; they serve only to harm women by deterring them from seeking out accurate information about their options in advance or medical care if they need it afterwards.

Question 14: Do you support legislation to study the unmet health and resource needs facing pregnant women in New York and the impact of so-called limited service pregnancy centers on the ability of women to obtain accurate, non-coercive health care information and timely access to a comprehensive range of reproductive and sexual health care services?

Decisions about pregnancy are time sensitive regardless of whether a person decides to continue or end her pregnancy. When a person becomes pregnant and decides to continue the pregnancy, timely prenatal care is connected to healthier pregnancies, as well as improved maternal and infant health. When a person decides to end a pregnancy, delays in accessing abortion unnecessarily increase the procedure’s complexity, as well as financial burdens, and may eliminate a person’s ability to obtain care altogether, severely limiting their reproductive health options. Delayed access to prenatal care, abortion, and emergency contraception all pose threats to public health. Meeting the health and resource needs of pregnant people, as well as addressing any potential negative health impacts of unlicensed facilities that offer limited services, are matters of state concern.

Question 16: Do you oppose policies and legislation that allow people to impose their own personal views on the rights of others who use reproductive health care in medical institutions, through medical providers and accessing that care either through public or private insurance?

A patchwork of federal and state laws allows hospitals, pharmacies, and medical providers to refuse to provide abortion and contraception to individuals seeking those services. Similarly, some employers and insurance companies are permitted to deny insurance coverage for these services if they can claim religious or moral objection. The morality of an institution should not supersede the right of an individual to access reproductive health services safely and affordably.

Question 17: Do you support access to abortion care regardless of immigration status, including for minors in Office of Refugee Resettlement, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement or other federal custody?

In 2018, the Trump-Pence administration introduced a new policy that requires immigrants under the age of 18 who are in custody with the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to get the government’s approval to access safe, legal abortion. The ORR denied at least seven young immigrants’ requests for abortion — even when the pregnancy resulted from rape. All of these women were ultimately able to access abortion despite the government’s extreme efforts.

In an overreach of power, the ORR director received a weekly updated spreadsheet on the condition of every pregnant teen in its custody. The ORR went so far as to consider forcing a teenage girl in custody to undergo an experimental and unproven treatment to “reverse” an abortion.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) used to have limits on detaining pregnant immigrants that almost always required releasing them on bond or under supervision. However, the administration has expanded ICE’s power to detain pregnant immigrants. The new policy to hold pregnant immigrants in custody during their immigration proceedings is having devastating effects on the detained women, their pregnancies, and their families. The number of undocumented pregnant people who had miscarriages while in government detention nearly doubled in the administration’s first two years.

Question 18: Do you support policies and legislation that protect and expand New Yorkers’ access to a variety of contraception methods at no-copay, allow for increased dispensing and make emergency contraception easier to access?

New York needs to protect and build upon the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage provision by expanding the range of drugs, devices, and services insurance plans must cover, providing coverage for male contraceptive methods, allowing for procurement of 12 months of birth control at a time, and granting pharmacists the ability to prescribe emergency contraception (EC) through a standing order, thus allowing more women to access EC at no extra cost. Contraceptive access lowers rates of unintended pregnancy and plays a crucial role in improving maternal and child health outcomes, as well as the economic well-being of women and their families. All New Yorkers, regardless of economic status, should have timely access to contraception and the information they need in order to plan their families and their futures.

Question 22: Do you support legislation or policy that would extend Medicaid coverage to one year after the end of pregnancy?

Despite the robust Medicaid coverage options for low-income pregnant women, gaps in coverage remain. This is especially true in the postpartum period. Nearly 60 percent of pregnant women experienced a month-to-month change in insurance type during the nine months of pregnancy, and half were uninsured at some point in the six months following birth. This churn—the cycling on, off, and between health insurance programs—is particularly pronounced in the perinatal period.

Post-ACA, one in three women experienced a disruption in insurance coverage before, during, or after pregnancy, and nearly 60 percent of these perinatal insurance disruptions include a period of uninsurance.

With a growing number of maternal deaths occurring in the postpartum period, extending Medicaid coverage improves health outcomes. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and its physician partners also recommend extending coverage. Moreover, the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates adopted a resolution supporting the extension of Medicaid coverage for women in the postpartum period at its June 2019 meeting.

Question 23: Do you support state funding to protect access to affordable preventive reproductive and sexual health care when New York opts out of federal Title X?

In 2019, the Trump administration implemented an unethical and dangerous gag rule making it illegal for health care providers in the program to tell patients how they can safely and legally access abortion and imposed new rules designed to make it impossible for reproductive health providers to serve Title X patients. This has forced longstanding Title X grantees from the program – including the New York State Department of Health and Public Health Solutions, which have used Title X funds to provide support to 50 agencies across the state to ensure cost is never a barrier to preventive reproductive health care. In doing the right thing, and refusing to implement the gag rule, the State and PHS collectively lost approximately $15 million in federal Title X funds. The state must provide funding to protect access to this program and stand strong against these federal attacks.

Question 24: Do you oppose legislation that requires minors to obtain parental notice or consent before obtaining an abortion?

This kind of legislation is an attack on the abortion rights of young people whose access is already threatened. In many states, anti-choice legislators have passed laws requiring young women to receive parental consent prior to having an abortion. Studies show that most young women voluntarily notify at least one parent when seeking an abortion. Most parents agree that whether or not their child can come to them, she should have timely access to safe medical care and counseling. But laws preventing interstate travel would prevent a young woman in these difficult situations from seeking important help from other trusted adults in their lives.