The Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program Act (Bill S.9078-Cleare/A.10148-A-Rules (Gonzalez-Rojas)) (RFEPA) is one of many abortion-related bills released in recent weeks following the leak of a draft Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade (1973). Although abortion was legal in New York before Roe, and although abortion availability was expanded in New York when then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the Reproductive Health Act on January 22, 2019, some pro-choice lawmakers see the possible downfall of Roe as a crisis that necessitates immediate action by the New York State Legislature.
The RFEPA begins by declaring that “abortion is essential health care and integral to the overall health and wellbeing of individuals.” The RFEPA would create a grant program within the New York State Department of Health to fund abortion providers and nonprofits that facilitate abortion access. The program would have a three-part purpose: Increasing access to abortion, paying for abortions for women who cannot afford them, and offering “practical support” to women seeking abortions—including women “traveling to New York” to obtain abortions. Specifically, the program would increase abortion access by “growing the capacity of abortion providers to meet present and future care needs.” Funds would be distributed for the purpose of building new abortion clinics, renovating existing clinics, and staff recruitment and retention.
In short, the sponsors of the RFEPA propose to use New Yorkers’ tax dollars to strengthen and expand the abortion industry. They also propose to use tax dollars to help out-of-staters obtain abortions here in the Empire State.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2017, “862,320 abortions were provided in clinical settings in the United States.” Of that total, 105,380 abortions—or 12.2%—were performed in New York.” Despite these figures, the sponsor memorandum accompanying the RFEPA declares abortion access in the United States to be “in a perilous position.” According to the memo, if Roe is overturned, “abortion access is expected to further erode in at least 26 states across the country”; the memo refers to that potential erosion as a human rights violation. The memo calls upon the state of New York to be “a leader in the right for abortion justice” and to “ensure abortion is affordable and available for everyone who needs it” by passing RFEPA.
The sponsors of RFEPA view abortion as “essential health care” that is “integral to the overall health and wellbeing of individuals.” This perspective forms the basis for the entire legislation. Because they perceive abortion to be “essential,” the sponsors naturally contend that any hindrance to abortion access is a violation of human rights. Whatever else abortion may be, however, it is certainly not “essential.” Abortion is not like food, clothing, or shelter; it is not necessary for survival. Women who become pregnant can carry their pregnancies to term and bear children, and women who do not wish to have children can take steps to avoid pregnancy. The very rhetoric of the pro-choice movement reveals the non-essential nature of abortion; the use of the term “choice” necessarily implies that abortion is just one of multiple options available to a pregnant woman.
Given that abortion is not essential, the provisions of RFEPA cannot be justified. Unfortunately, the state of New York already funds abortion through Medicaid. Why should more of New Yorkers’ tax dollars be used to fund an optional (and morally repugnant) procedure? Since when is “growing the capacity of abortion providers to meet present and future care needs” a legitimate public policy goal? And what makes it New Yorkers’ responsibility to fund the availability of this procedure for people who do not even live here?
Another of the RFEPA’s fatal flaws is its blatantly one-sided response to the possibility that Roe v. Wade may be overturned. If RFEPA’s sponsors are truly concerned about the plight of pregnant women in other states who may not have access to abortion in a post-Roe America, why have they not proposed to create a funding stream for abortion alternatives? If the sponsors believe that the state has the money to help abortion providers expand their operations, why not help adoption agencies to do the same?
The RFEPA is an extremist measure that seeks to use New Yorkers’ hard-earned money to create a funding stream for the abortion industry. It must not become law.