Backed by a large number of his Democratic conference and advocates, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Tuesday afternoon warned of “a slow and steady erosion” of reproductive rights as he announced that the chamber would pass two measures designed to protect abortion availability and enhance access to contraception — issues that are once again back in the news as Republicans take control of the gears of government in Washington, D.C., and President Donald Trump prepares to name a Supreme Court justice who could play a role in undoing four decades of uneasy consensus on the right to abortion.
The chamber passed the latest version of the Reproductive Health Act, which codifies the protections of the high court’s Roe v. Wade decisions in state law, Tuesday evening by a 96-46 vote. Members then passed the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, which would require all health insurers provide cost-free contraceptive coverage as a part of their insurance policies, later Tuesday night by a similarly wide margin.
The second bill was introduced by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
“Over the years, we’ve heard it all — that this doesn’t need to be in state law; we’ve heard that the Roe v. Wade decision isn’t going anywhere, but still this conference has pushed a vote,” Heastie said. “We saw the warning signs of an agenda that is committed to turning back the hands of progress.”
Under the CCCA, insurance companies would have to provide cost-free coverage for at least one type of all FDA-approved contraceptives, including emergency contraception such as morning-after pills. The bill would also apply to voluntary sterilization procedures for both men and women, and would prohibit insurance companies from unduly delaying contraceptive coverage. (The measure would also allow patients to receive a year’s supply of contraception at a time.)
Both measures face almost certain inaction in the Republican-led state Senate.
“Hope springs eternal,” Heastie said when asked about the fact that the Senate has blockaded the measure every year. “You know, Republican women vote too.”
“At a time when Republicans in Washington are seeking to roll back the gains made under the Affordable Care Act, it’s important that New York lead by guaranteeing access to contraceptives,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “Building on the legal opinion I issued last year, the Reproductive Health Act codifies in state law the right to choose established in Roe v. Wade, making clear New Yorkers’ reproductive rights will not be jeopardized by Donald Trump’s high court nominees. I applaud the Assembly, Speaker Heastie, and Assemblymembers Cahill and Glick for their leadership in protecting New York women’s fundamental right to reproductive health care, and urge our colleagues in the Senate to act now.”