New York – In an op-ed published today in the New York Daily News, Senator Krueger argues for the necessity of a Democratic controlled State Senate and Assembly in order to pass the Reproductive Health Act and protect the freedom of New York families to make deeply personal reproductive healthcare decisions without government interference.

Why N.Y. needs to fix its abortion laws, now: The Reproductive Health Act may as well be on the ballot in this election

As Election Day approaches, the status of a woman’s right to an abortion has been a topic of significant concern on the state and federal levels. These days we often take this right for granted, but we should not. The appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court solidified a conservative majority on that bench, bringing abortion opponents one step closer to overturning Roe v. Wade and eliminating federal protections for abortion rights.

As a result, the urgency of passing the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) in New York State has increased exponentially. Unfortunately, opponents continue to spread misinformation about the bill. It is important to know the truth before you make your decisions on Nov. 6.

In 1970, when thousands of women were dying annually from complications of unsafe, illegal abortions, New York State passed groundbreaking legislation that legalized abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, or after that point if a woman’s life is at risk. However, the 1970 law does not provide the same protections as Roe v. Wade, which in 1973 legalized abortion nationwide up to 24 weeks, or after that point if a woman’s health or life are at risk or if the fetus is not viable.

This is a critical shortcoming in current New York State law that must not be overlooked. Severe fetal abnormalities are frequently detected near the 24-week mark, or even later, and women may experience serious health conditions at any point during pregnancy.

Why does this matter? Due to the discrepancy between state and federal law, and because abortion is the only medical procedure regulated in the New York State penal code instead of the health code, hospitals prevent doctors from providing later-term abortion care if the fetus is not viable or if a woman’s health is in jeopardy, for fear of legal liability.

In these situations, a woman faces the wrenching decision of whether to pay more than $10,000 to travel out of state for care; continue the pregnancy and risk her health or future fertility, delivering a baby that may be stillborn or survive briefly in agonizing pain; or get an abortion in New York and risk possible criminal charges.

This is outrageous. Women and their families should not be forced by the government to make these horrific decisions.

Another reason New York’s abortion law must be updated is that when it was enacted in 1970, Advanced Practice Clinicians (APCs) such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners did not exist in law. Therefore, physicians were the only health-care providers who were permitted to perform abortion services.

Unsurprisingly, in the past 50 years, there have been great advancements in medical technology, training and procedures. APCs are now established in New York State law and regulations, and perform a range of medical services. Yet even though regulatory agencies have determined that APCs who possess the appropriate education, training and experience are qualified to provide early abortion care within their scope of practice, this determination does not align with current state law. The RHA will correct this discrepancy.

Opponents of abortion have been spreading a fear-based, false argument that passing the RHA will allow non-physicians to perform abortions, putting women at risk. But qualified APCs are already providing early abortion care in New York — legally and safely. Similar to physicians and other health-care providers, they meet stringent requirements and provide medical services appropriately and safely for the wellbeing of their patients.

New Yorkers’ reproductive freedom is at greater risk than at any time since 1970. We must pass the Reproductive Health Act — and to do that, we need Democrats in the Assembly and Senate.

Krueger represents the east side of Manhattan in the state Senate.