Published on February 17, 2017, by in RJV.

On January 17, the New York State Assembly passed the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (A1378), which would require insurers to provide copay-free coverage for all FDA-approved contraceptives. Emergency contraception like Plan B, which typically costs upwards of $50 without a prescription, would be covered over the counter, and male contraception would also be covered. The legislation does not change existing federal rules creating a religious accommodation and exemption regarding contraceptive coverage.

On the same day the Assembly also passed the Reproductive Health Act (A1748), which would codify Roe v. Wade at the state level and ensure the right to an abortion in the state of New York with or without the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision. New York was one of the first states to legalize abortion in 1970, but currently has more stringent rules about a woman’s right to choose than Roe v. Wade dictates. In New York, a pregnancy can only be terminated after 24 weeks if a doctor has reason to believe that the pregnant woman’s life might be at stake, and A1748 would allow women in New York to access abortion care after 24 but weeks prior to viability. The bill passed the assembly with 97-49 votes.

On February 14, the Assembly passed A4876, legislation that would raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old. Each year, almost 28,000 16 and 17-year-olds are arrested and face the possibility of prosecution as adults in criminal court, and over 80% of those charged are adolescents of color. This bill would address those statistics, requiring the state to prosecute those under 18 as juveniles.

While all three pieces of legislation still need to pass the Senate, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has been very vocal about his support for these issues, adding to the momentum needed for these measures to become law. Gov. Cuomo proposed a state constitutional amendment to add the jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade into the New York Constitution, and issued an Executive Order in December 2015 to remove minors from adult prisons in an interim step pending the passage of the Raise the Age legislation.

The Reform Movement has long believed in both a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions. All life is sacred in Judaism; our tradition teaches that women must care for their own health and well-being above all else.

Just as our tradition also commands us to seek justice, a criminal justice system that punishes youth unjustly and discriminatorily violates this instruction.

Stay tuned for more information about these issues, and opportunities to engage with RJV to join us in building an Empire State of Tzedek.