In Final Days of Legislative Session, U.N. Human Rights Experts Urge New York State to Pass the Reproductive Health Act

June 20, 2017
Contact: Christie Petrone, 646-520-3504, [email protected]

The National Institute for Reproductive Health, the SIA Legal Team and the CUNY Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic applaud the joint communication

NEW YORK (June 20) – The National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH), the SIA Legal Team and the CUNY Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic applaud the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, and the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women for issuing a letter recommending that New York State adopt the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) in the final days of the 2017 Legislative Session. The RHA would safeguard access to abortion in the State of New York, no matter what happens with Roe v. Wade, and remove the threat of criminal prosecution for self-induced abortion.

The letter comes in response to a report filed jointly by the Self-Induced Abortion (SIA) Legal Team and the CUNY School of Law Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic to the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women on the issue of criminalization of self-induced abortion. The report highlights potential avenues to protect people from punishment for ending their own pregnancies – including passing the RHA in New York.

“We welcome this proposal and urge the New York State Senate to pass the bill in order to ensure that women’s rights are guaranteed in New York State,” said the UN Working Group’s letter signed by Dainius Puras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Dubravka Šimonovic, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, and Alda Facio, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice. “This Act would bring New York State legislation regarding abortion more closely into compliance with international human rights standards as regards the right of women to sexual and reproductive health, physical integrity and nondiscrimination. It would not only deviate from the negative trend on women’s reproductive rights; it would be a welcome precedent for other states in the country and a hopeful signal that much-needed reform can and should be initiated.”

“The UN Working Group on the Discrimination Against Women – a body that surveys human rights internationally – has recognized and reinforced what the vast majority of New Yorkers know and that the leadership of the state senate continues to ignore: it is well past time for the New York State Senate to pass the Reproductive Health Act,” said Andrea Miller, President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health. “New York has the ability to update the New York State law to ensure the protections of Roe v. Wade and end the criminal ban on self-administered abortion in New York. With two remaining days in the 2017 legislative session, the time for leadership is now.”

“As the statement from UN human rights experts indicates, the Reproductive Health Act is an opportunity for New York to lead in protecting women’s human rights,” said Farah Diaz-Tello, Senior Counsel, SIA Legal Team. “It is long since time that a state working hard to position itself as a progressive leader take steps to ensure that nobody fear arrest for ending their own pregnancy.”

“People throughout the United States face formidable barriers to getting the reproductive health care we need,” said Jill E. Adams, Executive Director, Center on Reproductive Rights and Justice at Berkeley Law and Chief Strategist, SIA Legal Team. “Once anyone has decided to end their pregnancy, they should be able to do so safe from physical harm or legal threat. We are thrilled that the UN Working Group and Special Rapporteurs have insisted that the human right to access safe abortion be respected, protected, and upheld of all communities.”

“In the 21st century, New York should set an example in protecting reproductive rights and ensuring reproductive healthcare access for everyone,” said New York State Senator Liz Krueger. “Instead, we are so far behind the curve that United Nations experts on women’s rights have serious concerns about our outdated laws. It is, in a word, shameful. We know what we have to do – pass the Reproductive Health Act. This bill has already passed the Assembly. All we need now is a vote on the Senate floor and a signature from the Governor, and New York can once again be a leader on women’s rights.”

“In the current political environment, it is crucial that UN human rights bodies call out the U.S. when it violates human rights,” said Cindy Soohoo, Director of the City University School of Law Human Rights and Gender Justice Clinic. “We are pleased that the U.N. experts have recognized that criminalizing women for terminating their own pregnancies violates their human rights.  These rights include personal and bodily autonomy – the right to make one’s own decisions about her body and her future and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex.”

By passing the RHA, New York has the opportunity to lead the nation and world by enshrining in state law the right to abortion, regardless of what happens federally.



The National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) builds power at the state and local levels to change public policy, galvanize public support, and normalize women’s decisions about abortion and contraception.