(New York, NY, Wednesday, April 21, 2022) – The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (“WBASNY”) strongly supports a woman’s fundamental right to choose and make her own reproductive health decisions, and urges the United States Senate to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (“WHPA”). WHPA will “protect a person’s ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services.”
Reproductive justice is a human right and requires every individual to have the right to make her own decisions about having children regardless of her circumstances and without interference and discrimination. As the late Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated at her 1993 Senate confirmation hearings, “The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. When the government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a full adult human responsible for her own choices.”
While the United States Supreme Court weighs the future of Roe v. Wade and its progeny, the time to protect reproductive rights has never been more urgent. Many States have already severely limited the ability of healthcare professionals to provide such services. For example, Florida, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas recently enacted legislation which virtually eliminates abortions in those States and imposes civil and/or criminal penalties on those who provide abortion services and/or assist in performing abortions. Some of these laws even deputize citizens as bounty hunters by offering rewards for civilly prosecuting anyone who is involved in an abortion. These laws are dangerous and could result in pregnant women dying because they cannot obtain medically-necessary healthcare. Many of these laws provide no exceptions for pregnancies that result from rape or incest, and where the pregnancy poses a risk to maternal health, abortion providers will be reluctant to provide such services for fear of their judgment being second-guessed as well as the possibility of being prosecuted.
Additionally, such laws have a disparate impact on poor girls and women who cannot afford to go out-of-state to obtain the medical care that they need. It is no coincidence that those states passing laws against abortion services have high poverty rates and high maternal death rates – some of the highest in the entire world, let alone the developed world.
As abortion services in several states continue to be severely restricted or nearly banned, the time to act is now. Core rights of privacy and bodily autonomy are hanging in the balance. WPHA highlights the historically deficient health care services for the most marginalized communities, communities that will continue to suffer catastrophically if the federal government takes no action. Without this legislation, some women in these communities will die because they will have no alternative but to obtain abortions by unqualified persons or be forced to have self-induced abortions.
The Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY) is the professional membership organization of choice for more than 3,500 attorneys throughout New York State, and the largest statewide women’s bar association in the country. For over four decades, WBASNY has been a singularly important resource for women lawyers, with professional networking, continuing legal education programming, leadership training, and advocacy for the rights of women, children, and families. Through involvement with WBASNY’s 20 regional chapters and its 40-plus substantive law committees, WBASNY’s members collaborate with one another on a variety of issues and perform public and community service, in furtherance of its mission to promote the advancement of the status of women in society and women in the legal profession; to promote the fair and equal administration of justice; and to act as a unified voice for its members with respect to issues of statewide, national and international significance to women generally and women attorneys in particular. WBASNY holds United Nations NGO status with the U.N.’s Department of Public Information, and Special Consultative status in association with the U.N. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). WBASNY is also a founding member of the National Conference of Women’s Bar Associations.