Column, "Time to Make History," by Haydeé Morales, Vice President of Education, Training, and Margaret Sanger Center International, Planned Parenthood of New York City, published in Spanish in El Diario (3/22/10)
This month is womenís history month Ė traditionally a time to look back and honor all the courageous women whoíve come before us and made a difference.
Yet this March, we have the unique opportunity to make a little history of our own.
Right now, the New York State legislature is considering the Reproductive Health Act: a bill that would, for the first time in New York, treat the regulation of abortion as an issue of public health and medical practice rather than as a potential crime. It would ensure that a woman is able to have an abortion if her health is endangered, something that is not now guaranteed under current New York State law. It would affirm that, in New York State, it is a woman who is best equipped to make the decision about whether and when she becomes a parent.
Back in 1970, New York State made history by being one of the first states to decriminalize abortion as a medical procedure.
Yet, as pioneering as New York was back then, that law hasnít changed since. Thatís right Ė New York State has not updated its law regarding abortion for forty years.
Now, more than ever, we need an updated law.
New York currently relies on the federal protections provided by the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, protections that are not secure. State legislatures across the country have enacted more than 450 bills that would ban or restrict abortion, some of which are a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade. Utah has just criminalized intentional miscarriages. Oklahoma attempted to force the disclosure of personal information about women seeking abortions and to post that information on a state web site. And a number of members of the U.S. Congress are doing all they can to prevent health care reform, and with it millions of Americans from receiving necessary health insurance, just so they can further restrict access to abortion.
All it takes is one of these challenges to reach the Supreme Court, and Roe v. Wade could be overturned.
Thatís why this month is the perfect time for New York to make history. Imagine if New York, at a time when so many other states are moving backwards, affirms that a woman has the ability to make the decision thatís best for herself, her family, and her future. Imagine a New York that actively protects the health of our mothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts. Imagine a New York that declares that, yes, itís up to a woman to decide whether and when to become a parent.
To be sure, this is a difficult time in New York State politics. We have seen Albany rocked by numerous scandals, infighting, and budget deficits.
Yet, shouldnít that mean itís time for them to do something we can all be proud of? And when an overwhelming number of New Yorkers are not only pro-choice but support this bill, this truly would be an act we could all get behind. So this month, to celebrate womenís history, letís make a little history of our own. New York, letís gather up our courage and pass the Reproductive Health Act.