Queens state senator and health advocates say new state law gives women control of their health decisions

Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS

Forty-six years after the landmark Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade, Queens State Senator John Liu celebrated another major milestone for women’s reproductive rights.

On Jan. 25, Liu joined advocates and community members at his district office in Bayside to celebrate the passage of the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) in Albany.

The bill was approved three days earlier and decriminalizes late-term abortions (after 24 weeks); allows licensed health care practitioners to perform abortions “according to the practitioner’s reasonable and good faith professional judgment” when (1) a patient is with 24 weeks of giving birth, (2) there is an absence of fetal viability outside of the womb and (3) abortion is necessary to protect a patient’s life or health; and codifies into state law various legal protections from the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 should the Supreme Court overturn them.

“For so long, women’s choice had been not a matter of health but a matter of a crime,” Liu said. “Abortion as a woman’s choice was always, in New York State Law, in the criminal statutes, never in the health statutes. Well, we finally passed the Reproductive Health Act, which finally takes abortion out of the criminal code and puts it where it belongs — in the health laws of the state of New York.”

Since launching his ultimately successful campaign against former state Senator Tony Avella in District 11 last year, Liu expressed his intention to codify Roe v. Wade protections into state law through the RHA and has rallied for equal rights for women throughout his campaign.

“I’m a man, and as a man, the state of New York does not tell me what to do with my body. The state of New York does not restrict me in the choices that I make with my own body,” Liu said. “But they always made those restrictions on women. So today is not only a matter of protecting women’s choice, it is a simple matter of achieving equality; equal rights for women. The government should not be telling women what to do with their body.”

Those in attendance at last Friday’s press conference included patient advocate and co-creator of the RHA Vote campaign, Erika Christensen; President of Queensboro Hill Flushing Civic Association, Maureen Regan; Rokeya Akhter, Executive Director of NAVA PAC; Doctor Neeta Jain, District Leader of 25th AD; and Sandra Ung, special assistant to Congresswoman Grace Meng.

Christensen recalled learning about New York’s “unconstitutional abortion law the hard way.” The mother and advocate said that when she needed a late abortion for a “complicated pregnancy” she was told that her doctor could not help her since she was past New York’s 24-week cutoff.

“I would have to leave the state, spending thousands of dollars for last-minute travel and out-of-pocket medical care to be cared for by one of the few later-abortion providers — this one in Colorado,” Christensen said.

Through her journey, Christensen learned how fortunate she was to be able to afford the care she needed when so many others may not be able to do the same. She encouraged everyone to visit talklikeapro.com to learn more about the RHA bill and become better-informed citizens.

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