Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

Schneiderman says New York’s Pro-Choice Movement Needs to get Organized

October 10, 2017

As published by Crain’s New York, on October 6, 2017.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said New Yorkers need to get active in state politics to protect reproductive rights “now that you’re seeing the illusion of protection by the federal government fade away.”

That includes working to elect pro-choice lawmakers to become the majority in the state Senate, Schneiderman said at a recent panel on reproductive rights hosted by the New York City Bar Association.

Since President Donald Trump was elected, Schneiderman has joined other politicians in stepping up efforts to promote access to reproductive health at the state level.

“It’s as though Washington has turned into this toxic volcano of bad public policy spewing out bad ideas,” he said. “I’m a big advocate of using state power and engaging at the state level both to fill in where the federal government retreats from enforcing rights and to fight back when they do things that would hurt the people we represent.”

In January Schneiderman introduced in the state Legislature the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act, a bill aimed at reinforcing and expanding insurance coverage of contraception without cost-sharing. In May he threatened to sue the federal government if the American Health Care Act became law, in part because of a provision that would defund Planned Parenthood for a year. He also brought a suit against protesters at a Queens abortion clinic for violating state law protecting access to such facilities.

New York is not facing the same restrictions on reproductive health access as many other states and currently has the highest abortion rate in the U.S., but Schneiderman said there’s still more to be done.

“Even in this overwhelmingly pro-choice state, we do not have a pro-choice majority in the New York state Senate,” Schneiderman said. In recent years that situation has prevented the state from updating its abortion law so that it’s in line with Roe v. Wade and subsequent rulings.

Schneiderman said he has been a proponent of abortion access since he took a job at a pre–Roe v. Wade abortion clinic in Washington, D.C., at age 17.

“I’ve spent most of my time in the pro-choice movement feeling like we’re just getting our clocks cleaned by the other side and we’re really not as well-organized,” said Schneiderman. “We’re losing ground every year.”

Lawyers and others in New York must also mobilize to ensure abortion access in other states, some of which are down to one clinic, said Schneiderman.