Passing & Protecting New York’s Reproductive Health Act

Policy Win
Expanding Abortion Access

In 2019, on the 46th anniversary of Roe v Wade, New York enacted the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), decriminalizing and safeguarding abortion and ensuring greater access to reproductive health care.

In the face of the Trump-Pence administration’s attacks on abortion rights and access, it is more important than ever for advocates, legislators, and governors to push forward bold, proactive policies that will protect and expand access to reproductive health, rights, and justice — including abortion care.

New York’s RHA is an example of bold legislation designed to ensure women have the health care they need and providers can meet the needs of their patients without political interference. The RHA accomplished three main things:

  1. New York State now treats abortion as health care, not a criminal act. Before the RHA, New York regulated abortion in the criminal code as an exception to the homicide law, and was one of only seven states that criminalized self-managed abortion. No other medical procedure is regulated as a crime, and abortion should be no different.
  2. The RHA ensures that qualified health care providers can provide safe abortion care without fear of punishment.
  3. Providers can now provide abortion throughout a pregnancy if a woman’s health or life is in danger, or if a fetus is not viable.

The RHA was the first proactive policy to pass in 2019, and it ignited progress across the country, as eight more states enacted protections for abortion rights and access.

Passing the RHA

For more than 10 years, NIRH and the NIRH Action Fund led the advocacy campaign to educate the public, rally New Yorkers, and convince elected officials to update New York’s laws by passing the Reproductive Health Act.

NIRH Action Fund Campaign: Demonstrating Popular Demand

Following years of grassroots organizing, the 2018 election delivered a pro-choice majority in the New York State Senate, and a mandate for passing the RHA. The NIRH Action Fund immediately launched an aggressive campaign to drive New Yorkers to contact their senators, demonstrating the widespread demand that New York pass the RHA as a first order of business in 2019.

NIRH Public Education Campaign: Raising Awareness About New York’s Outdated and Dangerous Law

At the start of 2019, NIRH launched a campaign to educate New Yorkers and legislators about how New York’s previous abortion law criminalized women seeking abortions and providers who offer abortion care. Billboards in Albany, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and Google Search ads, provided information about the outdated and dangerous nature of New York’s law.

Defending the RHA, and Advocating for Similar Policies in Other States

After the successful passage of the RHA, opponents of abortion access began spreading lies and misinformation about the law in an effort to malign abortion access and halt similar progress in other states.

In response to the web of misinformation spun by those who would like to see abortion criminalized, NIRH launched an aggressive ad campaign in Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and Washington, DC to set the record straight on the RHA and other proactive legislation. After Trump spread vicious misinformation about New York’s RHA during the State of the Union address, we struck back with ads reminding viewers that Trump’s true agenda is to overturn Roe v. Wade, push abortion out of reach, and make abortion a crime.

The next ad set emphasized that laws that protect abortion access help women and families, like patient-advocates Erika Christensen and Garin Marshall, who were forced to travel out of state to access abortion care after getting a fatal fetal diagnosis.