In 1970, New York was one of the first states to legalize abortion, three years before Roe v. Wade was decided by the United States Supreme Court. While much has changed in over the past 40 years, New York law has lagged behind and now 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. The women of New York State therefore rely on the federal Constitution to guarantee those rights, leaving them vulnerable to further erosion by the U.S. Supreme Court.
On January 30, 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a state constitutional amendment to add the jurisprudence of Roe v. Wade to the New York Constitution, permanently protecting a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion in New York. In order to successfully amend the New York Constitution, the measure would have to pass the state legislature in two consecutive years, followed by an affirmative vote by residents in a statewide referendum.
In early January, 2017, the Reproductive Health Act (S2796/ A1748) was introduced by State Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Deborah Glick. This bill 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. Additionally, the RHA would repeal outdated criminal statutes prohibiting abortion, and ensure that New York State law treats abortion as health care, not a criminal act. A1748 passed the assembly with 97-49 votes on January 17, 2017, but S2796 has yet to be heard in the Senate.
In early January, 2017, the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act (S3668/A1378) was introduced by State Senator John Bonacic and Assembly Member Kevin Cahill. This act would ensure insurance coverage for all forms of contraception without co-payments, provide easier access to emergency contraception, permit 12month dispensing of contraceptives and cover male contraception. A1378 passed the assembly with 103-43 votes on January 17th, 2017, but S3668 has yet to be heard in the Senate.
Reform Jewish Values
The Reform Jewish Movement has long advocated for women to be treated fairly and equally in all aspects of life—including reproductive health decisions and pay equality.
All life is sacred in Judaism. Although an unborn fetus is precious and to be protected, Judaism views the life and well-being of the mother as paramount, placing a higher value on existing life than on potential life. Women are commanded to care for their own health and well-being above all else. The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) and the Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) have adopted numerous resolutions stating their commitment to the protection and preservation of women’s reproductive rights.
The URJ has continuously reaffirmed its commitment to reproductive health with resolutions in 1967, 1975, 1981, and 1990, stating in 1975 that “in any decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, the individual family or woman must weigh the tradition as she struggles to formulate her own religious and moral criteria to reach her own personal decision….We oppose all constitutional amendments that would abridge or circumscribe this right.”