This brand-new senate is just getting started

Sen. Alessandra Biaggi

February 03, 2019

Originally published in Riverdale Press on February 03, 2019.

There is a very real risk to women’s right to control their reproductive choices, given the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 1973 federal Roe v. Wade ruling will be overturned at the first chance they get. One week ago, this would have subjected New York women to decades-old New York law, which includes abortion in the criminal code, not the health code where it belongs.

When I worked in Gov. Cuomo’s counsel’s office, one of my first assignments was working on the Reproductive Health Act, a bill that would codify Roe v. Wade into New York state law. Learning that the RHA had been help up for years in the state senate was a major motivation to run for the state senate. Getting it passed was a campaign commitment.

It’s frankly remarkable to witness the possibility of transforming hopelessness into stunning progress when we organize around the values we want to see realized. It is equally remarkable that, just one year later, the voters of Senate District 34 gave me the opportunity to play my part in making the RHA become law. And as a proud co-sponsor of this bill, I was to finally finish the assignment I was given at the governor’s office.

I hope that all of New York is watching and that they recognize that elections have consequences. And that when you vote for people who stand up for your rights, your rights become protected.

The RHA was the first bill signed into law in New York in 2019. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, senate majority leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and our new Democratic majority in the senate made it possible.

Since the Democrats have taken the majority, the state senate has passed 29 bills, including many important bills that had been held up by the previous Republican control of the senate. That includes the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which will ensure insurance companies cover FDA-approved contraceptive drugs, devices and products.

It might surprise some to hear that contraception is not always covered by health insurance, even in the age of Obamacare. Now, New York health insurance policies will be required to cover contraception without co-pays, co-insurance or deductibles. Emergency contraception also will be covered for those who are in need.

Additionally, vasectomies and male condoms are covered, appropriately reminding us that reproductive health care is not simply a woman’s burden.

These are necessary tools for health care, and no one should have to do without them because of cost.

Finally, the Boss Bill will prevent employers from discriminating against employees based on their reproductive health decisions. No one should ever be penalized or fired by their employer because of personal choices about health care.

Decisions about contraception and when or whether to have a child are fundamental to a woman’s right to choose. The Boss Bill protects New Yorkers from interference in these very personal decisions.

I’m proud to say that I was a co-sponsor of all three bills.

For the last two years, we have been facing major threats to women’s rights, including but not limited to reproductive choice. And we have responded.

It is no coincidence that 2018 saw a record number of women running for and elected to office. It is not coincidence that our state reclaimed its Democratic majority with the most women ever elected in the legislature.

And now we are passing legislation that sets in stone that we believe in women, their rights and abilities to make essential decisions for their bodies and their families.

New York has always represented a commitment to human rights, and although progress has been stalled for the greater part of a decade, I can assure you that this new body is just getting started.