“Women marched then to make abortion legal and safe, and we march now because we want to keep abortion legal and safe,” JoAnn Smith, the president of Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, told members of the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island on Jan. 22, the 44th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.
In preparation for any change or challenge to the law that may come, members of the Ethical Humanist Society signed letters to New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) asking him to protect a woman’s right to abortion and affordable contraception.
According to Smith, if Roe v. Wade is overturned the states would decide whether to keep abortion legal. To ensure New York would keep abortion legal, these letters pushed for Flanagan to introduce the Reproductive Health Act (A.1748), to the Senate floor. The legislation, which passed the State Assembly on Jan. 17, would codify abortion rights in the New York State health code.
“I lived through an era where women did not have access to abortions, where women tried the coat hanger, and I don’t want that era to ever come back,” said Delorie Cohan, a member of the Ethical Humanist Society.
The letters also urged Flanagan to pass the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (A.1378), which would require New York health insurers to provide cost-free coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptives, including male contraception.
“The Senate must act, so that no New Yorker has to worry about losing the birth control access they rely on to stay healthy and plan for their future,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who introduced the legislation, in a statement.
Supporters of Planned Parenthood throughout the state also signed similar letters. “He needs to hear the voices of all the constituents around the state because he needs to hear that … he has to bring this vote to the floor, he cannot just hold it in committee and not do anything with it,” Smith said.
Planned Parenthood will also fight for the legislation in Albany on Jan. 30, when the organization will hold a rally for more than 2,000 supporters from across the state, who will then meet with state senators to discuss these acts and ask them to continue to fund Planned Parenthood.
“There’s going to be a sea of pink: pink scarves, pink hats, pink everything, to say there are thousands of people here in our state capital to say that we need New York State to continue the funding it gives us already to provide free or low-cost family planning care,” said Smith.