As New York lawmakers meet to craft this year’s state budget, we have an opportunity to make great strides for reproductive freedom. In his Executive Budget proposal, Governor Cuomo included several provisions that would protect abortion access, expand contraception coverage, and improve maternal mortality rates. We must ensure that these crucial women’s health provisions do not get cut from the budget before it is finalized: 

New York legalized abortion in 1970, but today abortion care is still regulated in the criminal code, which is out of step with constitutional protections and current medical realities. The Governor’s budget proposes fully repealing abortion from New York’s penal code, moving the regulation of abortion, like all other medical procedures, to the Public Health and Education Laws.

Why is this important?

  • Although the vast majority of women who need abortion in New York seek care at a health care facility, some are unable or reluctant to access clinic-based abortion care – for example, women who are low-income, live in rural or other underserved communities, or whose immigration status makes them wary of seeking care from the formal medical system, particularly in this political environment. When a woman needs to end a pregnancy and is unable to obtain abortion from health care providers, she may induce an abortion on her own. New York law explicitly makes it illegal for her to do so, and threatens criminal penalties if she does. New York is one of the handful of states that has laws on the books that explicitly make self-administered abortion illegal.Abortion is critical health care that makes a difference in women’s lives — not a crime. Our laws must reflect that.
  • New York law is currently inconsistent with constitutional protections and best medical practice. Because New York law does not explicitly allow for care after 24 weeks when a pregnant individual’s health is at risk or the fetus is not viable (both constitutionally-protected circumstances), New York providers may not feel legally safe to provide this care. In their moment of need, women are sent out of state, on their own dime, to get the care they need. This is inhumane. Decriminalizing abortion would remove this unconstitutional conflict in our law. The constitutional protections of Roe will continue to apply in New York State.
More than 50 percent of pregnancies in New York are unintended. More can and should be done to improve access to contraception. In the shadow of national efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act and to take away access to affordable coverage for millions, we should be breaking down barriers to birth control by passing the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which would require insurers in New York to provide copay-free coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptives. The Executive Budget includes this vital measure.
Our rates of maternal mortality are alarming and unacceptable. Black women in New York are nearly four times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth than white women. The Executive Budget proposes a Maternal Mortality Review Board. This Board is an important step toward identifying the causes of maternal mortality and identifying prevention strategies that can save women’s lives and eliminate health care disparities.
The Executive Budget proposal requires the State Education Commissioner to establish a “Be Aware Be Informed” program and to create model comprehensive sex education curriculum. This program is a starting point for improving sex education in New York state. It would incorporate the broader components of the National Sexuality Education Standards, but there is more must be done to strengthen it to make sex education a requirement. Our schools must support students as they learn about healthy relationships and sexual health by providing age-appropriate, medically accurate guidance from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Read on to learn more about the budget process and find out how you can help ensure that New York continues to lead on reproductive freedom. 

The Budget Process

Governor Releases His Budget Proposal

The governor’s proposal, also known as the executive budget, will usually comprise 10 bills, divided into legislation that authorizes spending (appropriation bills) and bills that set parameters related to spending or other legislative priorities. These are called Article VII Bills, in reference to the NY State Constitution. The legislature holds hearings on this proposal and the Governor puts forth amendments within 30 days.

Senate & Assembly Release Their Budget Proposals

Senate and Assembly release their budget proposals: By mid-March, the majority conferences in the Assembly and Senate compile and pass their own “one-house” budgets. These documents are intended to be a statement of principles leading into negotiations with the governor.

Governor, Senate Majority Leader & Assembly Speaker Negotiate

The serious business of negotiating the budget occurs in March behind closed doors by what is called the “Three Men in a Room”: The Governor, the Speaker of the Assembly and the Majority Leader of the Senate. This year those men are Governor Andrew Cuomo (D), Speaker Carl Heastie (D) and Majority Leader John Flanagan (R ).

Final Budget is Released & Receives Final Vote

Once the deal is struck, the bill must be printed (or made available digitally now) for 3 days before legislators can vote on them. No budget bill has failed in a legislative floor vote, so what is printed in bill is nearly guaranteed to become law.

Take Action

It’s up to us to make sure the Governor, Senate, and Assembly don’t negotiate away our reproductive freedom: contact your senators today and tell them not to cut women out of the budget negotiation process!

Contact Your Senator