Islander Joyce Short was welcomed as a special guest of Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright at the January 30 New York State Family Planning Advocates’ Day of Action, in recognition of her work as an advocate for women’s issues.
Short had lobbied Seawright to pass a law preventing “romance scams,” where perpetrators fake affection toward their victims to commit fraud, such as gaining access to the victim’s bank account or proof of identity. Seawright asked Short if she would be interested in advocating for the related issue of women’s health, and invited her to the Day of Action as her guest.
Call to Action
On January 30, over 1,600 women’s health, reproductive health, and family advocacy supporters rallied at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany. After listening to speakers Cecile Richards, President and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Governor Andrew Cuomo, participants attended workshops on lobbying and community organizing. The annual event was organized by Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts (PPESA), the advocacy branch of Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest reproductive health provider.
Women’s health and reproductive rights have become a rallying issue around the country following President Donald Trump’s announcement that he would work to appoint Supreme Court justices willing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision affirming that the right to an abortion was protected by the Constitution.
Short says that she finds it “unconscionable” that women’s reproductive health care is being “undermined by the policies of the present administration.” Short recalls the time before Roe v. Wade, when women had to travel long distances to legal abortion clinics or have risky abortions “on kitchen tables.”
Says Short, “One of my family members had such an abortion, and we were very fortunate that we didn’t lose her to septic shock.” She says that taking away the legal right to abortions does not decrease the number of abortions, but increases the number of deaths resulting from abortions.
New York Response
Several states have already passed laws to maintain the legality of abortions even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and New York may become one of them.
In his speech at the Family Planning Day of Action, Governor Cuomo announced that he would propose an amendment to codify Roe v. Wade into the state constitution. Codifying the policy would be more permanent than a legislative fix, but would take longer to enact, with the final round of approvals not starting until 2019.
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has also introduced the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act of 2017, which would guarantee that insurers based in the state would continue to offer access to birth control without copays, even if the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefits are removed (this would include male contraceptives).
In the meantime, Short encourages people who care about women’s health – regardless of their views on legalized abortion – to support Planned Parenthood. In addition to providing abortions, Planned Parenthood offers cancer screenings, STD testing, prescriptions for birth control and other medications, and sexual education, services that “many of their clients could not otherwise afford,” according to Short.
While most of the recipients of Planned Parenthood’s care are women, Short points out that the health of women “affects the men and children with whom they share their lives.”
Short says an easy way to get involved is by writing to legislators who want to de-fund Planned Parenthood with stories of how the organization has provided a valuable service to them or someone they know. She also recommends getting involved with the National Organization for Women (NOW), which she says works “to ensure that women are treated equitably and with respect in society.”
Short argues that, whether or not a woman chooses to have an abortion, she should be able to have that option, because no one has the right to speak for another.
“Our current political climate can easily undermine the positive strides that provide women with the right to exercise control over the sanctity of their bodies. It’s up to every one of us to prevent that from happening.”