Complaint Alleges Idaho Law Violates the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act
The Justice Department today filed a lawsuit to protect the rights of patients to access emergency medical care guaranteed by federal law. The suit challenges Idaho Code § 18-622 (§ 18-622), which is set to go into effect on Aug. 25 and imposes a near-total ban on abortion.
The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment that § 18-622 conflicts with, and is preempted by, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) in situations where an abortion is necessary stabilizing treatment for an emergency medical condition. The United States also seeks an order permanently enjoining the Idaho law to the extent it conflicts with EMTALA.
“On the day Roe and Casey were overturned, we promised that the Justice Department would work tirelessly to protect and advance reproductive freedom,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “That is what we are doing, and that is what we will continue to do. We will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that pregnant women get the emergency medical treatment to which they are entitled under federal law. And we will closely scrutinize state abortion laws to ensure that they comply with federal law.”
“Federal law is clear: patients have the right to stabilizing hospital emergency room care no matter where they live,” said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Women should not have to be near death to get care. The Department of Health and Human Services will continue its work with the Department of Justice to enforce federal law protecting access to health care, including abortions.”
“One critical focus of the Reproductive Rights Task Force has been assessing the fast-changing landscape of state laws and evaluating potential legal responses to infringements on federal protections,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “Today’s lawsuit against the State of Idaho for its near-absolute abortion ban is the first public example of this work in action. We know that these are frightening and uncertain times for pregnant women and their providers, and the Justice Department, through the Task Force’s work, is committed to doing everything we can to ensure continued lawful access to reproductive services.”
EMTALA requires hospitals that receive federal Medicare funds to provide necessary stabilizing treatment to patients who arrive at their emergency departments while experiencing a medical emergency. When a physician reasonably determines that the necessary stabilizing treatment is an abortion, state law cannot prohibit the provision of that care. The statute defines necessary stabilizing treatment to include all treatment needed to ensure that a patient will not have her health placed in serious jeopardy, have her bodily functions seriously impaired, or suffer serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.
As explained in the complaint, once § 18-622 enters into effect in Idaho, a prosecutor can indict, arrest and prosecute a physician merely by showing that an abortion has been performed, without regard to the circumstances. A physician who provides an abortion in Idaho can ultimately avoid criminal liability only by establishing as an affirmative defense that “the abortion was necessary to prevent the death of the pregnant woman” or that, before performing the abortion, the pregnant patient (or, in some circumstances, their parent or guardian) reported an “act of rape or incest” against the patient to a specified agency and provided a copy of the report to the physician. The law provides no defense for an abortion necessary to protect the health of the pregnant patient.
Idaho’s criminal prohibition of all abortions, subject only to the statute’s two limited affirmative defenses, directly conflicts with EMTALA and stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment of EMTALA’s federal objectives of providing stabilizing care and treatment to anyone who needs it. The Justice Department is committed to protecting access to reproductive services. Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs, the Justice Department established the Reproductive Rights Task Force, chaired by Associate Attorney General Gupta. The Task Force is charged with protecting access to reproductive freedom under federal law. For additional information on the work of the Task Force visit www.justice.gov/reproductive-rights.
Justice Department Announces Reproductive Rights Task Force
The Task Force Formalizes the Department’s Ongoing Work to Protect Reproductive Freedom Under Federal Law
The Justice Department announced today the establishment of the Reproductive Rights Task Force. The Task Force formalizes an existing working group and efforts by the Department over the last several months to identify ways to protect access to reproductive health care in anticipation of the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta will chair the Task Force, which will consist of representatives from the Department’s Civil Division, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney community, Office of the Solicitor General, Office for Access to Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, Office of Legal Policy, Office of Legislative Affairs, Office of the Associate Attorney General, Office of the Deputy Attorney General and Office of the Attorney General and will be supported by dedicated staff.
“As Attorney General Garland has said, the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision is a devastating blow to reproductive freedom in the United States,” said Associate Attorney General Gupta. “The Court abandoned 50 years of precedent and took away the constitutional right to abortion, preventing women all over the country from being able to make critical decisions about our bodies, our health, and our futures. The Justice Department is committed to protecting access to reproductive services.”
The Task Force will monitor and evaluate all state and local legislation and enforcement actions that threaten to:
Infringe on federal legal protections relating to the provision or pursuit of reproductive care;
Impair women’s ability to seek reproductive care in states where it is legal;
Impair individuals’ ability to inform and counsel each other about the reproductive care that is available in other states;
Ban Mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy; or
Impose criminal or civil liability on federal employees who provide reproductive health services in a manner authorized by federal law.
The Task Force will identify such actions and coordinate appropriate federal government responses, including proactive and defensive legal action where appropriate. The Task Force will work with agencies across the federal government to support their work on issues relating to reproductive rights and access to reproductive healthcare.
The Justice Department is working with external stakeholders such as reproductive services providers, advocates and state attorneys general. The Task Force will continue this important effort. It will also work with the Office of Counsel to the President to convene a meeting of private pro bono attorneys, bar associations and public interest organizations in order to encourage lawyers to represent and assist patients, providers and third parties lawfully seeking reproductive health services throughout the country. In order to assist attorneys working to protect access to comprehensive reproductive health services, the Task Force will centralize online legal resources, such as filed Justice Department legal briefs and information about the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.
Recognizing that the best way to protect reproductive freedom is through congressional action, the Task Force will also coordinate providing technical assistance to Congress in connection with federal legislation to codify reproductive rights and ensure access to comprehensive reproductive services. It will also coordinate the provision of technical assistance concerning Federal constitutional protections to states seeking to afford legal protection to out-of-state patients and providers who offer legal reproductive healthcare.
HHS Issues Guidance to the Nation’s Retail Pharmacies Clarifying Their Obligations to Ensure Access to Comprehensive Reproductive Health Care Services
Today, following President Biden’s Executive Order on ensuring access to reproductive health care, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is issuing guidance to roughly 60,000 U.S. retail pharmacies, reminding them of their obligations under federal civil rights laws. The guidance makes clear that as recipients of federal financial assistance, including Medicare and Medicaid payments, pharmacies are prohibited under law from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability in their programs and activities. This includes supplying prescribed medications; making determinations regarding the suitability of prescribed medications for a patient; and advising a patient about prescribed medications and how to take them. The action is the latest step in the HHS’ response to protect reproductive health care.
“We are committed to ensuring that everyone can access health care, free of discrimination,” said Secretary Becerra. “This includes access to prescription medications for reproductive health and other types of care.”
Under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (Section 1557), 42 U.S.C. 18116, recipients of federal financial assistance cannot exclude an individual from participation in, denying them the benefits of, or otherwise subjecting them to discrimination based on sex and other bases (i.e., race, color, national origin, age, and disability) in their programs and activities. Under federal civil rights law, pregnancy discrimination includes discrimination based on current pregnancy, past pregnancy, potential or intended pregnancy, and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.
HHS is committed to ensuring that people can access reproductive health care, free from discrimination. If you believe that your or another person’s civil rights have been violated, you can file a complaint with HHS at: https://www.hhs.gov/ocr/complaints/index.html.
Below are a list of actions HHS has taken in the days following the Supreme Court’s ruling to ensure access to reproductive health care:
Convened a meeting with health insurers, and sent them a letter, calling on the industry to commit to meeting their obligations to provide coverage for contraceptive services at no cost as required by the Affordable Care Act;
Issued guidance to patients and providers that addresses the extent to which federal law and regulations protect individuals’ private medical information when it comes to seeking abortion and other forms of reproductive health care, as well as when it comes to using health information apps on smartphones;
Announced nearly $3 million in new funding to bolster training and technical assistance for the nationwide network of Title X family planning providers;
Met with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, and Maine Governor Janet Mills and state attorneys general to discuss state-specific concerns;
Issued guidance on the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) reaffirming that it protects providers when offering legally-mandated, life- or health-saving abortion services in emergency situations.
On the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris issued a statement asserting their commitment to protecting women’s reproductive freedom:
The constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago today is under assault as never before. It is a right we believe should be codified into law, and we pledge to defend it with every tool we possess. We are deeply committed to protecting access to health care, including reproductive health care—and to ensuring that this country is not pushed backwards on women’s equality.
In recent years, we have seen efforts to restrict access to reproductive health care increase at an alarming rate. In Texas, Mississippi, and many other states around the country, access to reproductive health care is under attack. These state restrictions constrain the freedom of all women. And they are particularly devastating for those who have fewer options and fewer resources, such as those in underserved communities, including communities of color and many in rural areas.
The Biden-Harris Administration strongly supports efforts to codify Roe, and we will continue to work with Congress on the Women’s Health Protection Act. All people deserve access to reproductive health care regardless of their gender, income, race, zip code, health insurance status, immigration status, disability, or sexual orientation. And the continued defense of this constitutional right is essential to our health, safety, and progress as a nation.
We must ensure that our daughters and granddaughters have the same fundamental rights that their mothers and grandmothers fought for and won on this day, 49 years ago—including leaders like the late Sarah Weddington, whose successful arguments before the Supreme Court led to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
At this pivotal moment, we recommit to strengthening access to critical reproductive health care, defending the constitutional right established by Roe, and protecting the freedom of all people to build their own future.
The Vice President recorded a video message reiterating our administration’s commitment to protecting constitutional rights. “Roe v. Wade advanced women’s equality and that case saved women’s lives,” Harris says in the video. Read the Full Exclusive Here
HHS Secretary Becerra Takes Action to Protect Reproductive Health Care
New Task Force Launched on Eve of Roe v. Wade Anniversary
The task force includes subject matter experts from across the department. The HHS Assistant Secretary for Health and the HHS Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs will serve as the co-chairs of this coordinating body. The task force’s primary goal is to facilitate collaborative, innovative, transparent, equitable, and action-oriented approaches to protect and bolster sexual and reproductive health.
“As we commemorate the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we recommit to protecting and strengthening access to reproductive health care, including the right to safe and legal abortion care that the Supreme Court has recognized for decades,” said Secretary Becerra. “Patients have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. In light of restrictive laws across the nation, HHS will evaluate the impact on patients and our communities. That’s why today, I have launched the first Intra-agency Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access. Once again, we are telling health care providers and patients, we have your back.”
“Across America, we must protect access to sexual and reproductive health,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Rachel Levine, MD. “Establishing a new task force dedicated to this critical public health topic will advance policies that improve reproductive health care access within Federal programs and services, eliminate health disparities, and expand access to culturally competent health care services for underserved communities, including people of color, people with disabilities, young people, LGBTQI+ people, and others.”
“Advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights is central to our core global health goals, including our focus on addressing health inequities and expanding access to universal health coverage,” said HHS Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs Loyce Pace. “In order to build back better in the U.S. and around the world, we must ensure that all people can access high quality health care, including sexual and reproductive health care services.”
HHS has taken several meaningful actions under the Biden-Harris Administration to protect and bolster reproductive health, rights, and justice, including:
The Department issued a new final rule for Title X, the nation’s family planning program, to ensure access to equitable, affordable, client-centered, quality family planning services.
The Department announced $6.6 million through the Title X family planning program to address the demand for family planning services where restrictive laws and policies have impacted reproductive health access, or in states where there is a lack of or limited Title X access.
The Department has advanced maternal health priorities, including expanding access to postpartum Medicaid coverage, rural health care services, and implicit bias training.
The Department has issued guidance on both nondiscrimination requirements of the Church Amendments protecting health care providers through its Office for Civil Rights and providers’ legal obligations and protections under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide medical treatment to a pregnant patient who presents to the emergency department regardless of conflicting state laws or mandates that might seek to prevent such treatment.
By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features, news-photos-features.com
Thousands gathered in Foley Square, in front of the federal court house, to hear calls for justice, equal rights and full personhood for women in face of the assault on abortion rights from Texas and dozens of states and the right wing majority Supreme Court’s deference and then marched up to Washington Square Park, bringing their messages of “Save Roe” “Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries”, “Hands off Our Privates” “We Won’t Go Back” and “Ruth Sent Us.” (See: NYC Joins Millions Across Country in Rallies, Marches for Women’s Reproductive Freedom)
By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features, news-photos-features.com
Thousands gathered in Foley Square, in front of the federal court house, to protest for justice, equal rights and full personhood for women in face of the assault on abortion rights from Texas and dozens of states and the right wing majority Supreme Court’s deference. The timing was key, just days before the Supreme Court begins its session in which it will hear a Mississippi case banning abortions after 15 weeks. Texas SB8 bans abortions after six-weeks, the theoretical point when a fetus has a heartbeat, and deputizes vigilantes and bounty hunters to enforce it against anyone even suspected of aiding a woman who gets an abortion and collect $10,000.
Rana Abdelhamid: “This is not about religion, not about life. They called us ‘hysterical’ for warning about the effort to overturn Roe v. Wade. It’s time for congress to do what’s right and protect our constitutional right to abortion. End the filibuster. We know what it is to have our bodies policed. Abolition Justice!
Donna Lieberman, executive director of the NYCLU: We stand with women in Texas, Mississippi and all over the country. Abortion Justice. Reproductive Justice. Make New York a safe haven, close every loophole in state law, so anyone can come for reproductive health. We won’t turn back. We will be at every polling place in every election. Hold elected leaders accountable.
Heidi Sieck, Vote Pro Choice: Reproductive freedom and abortion justice are at stake. Small, massively overfunded group of white supremacist, Christian conservatives have invested in state legislatures, built an anti-choice infrastructure. They stole two Supreme Court seats. That changes now. Over 80 percent support reproductive freedom. Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (that passed the House, but not the senate), end the filibuster, rebalance Supreme Court. In November, 2021, 40,000 seats are up for election. Every ingle elected has a role to protect reproductive rights. Not just congress but state and local. Run for office, donate to VoteProChoice.us.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney: They have been chipping away at abortion rights for years, but now they are bulldozing our rights into the ground.Last week, chaired House Oversight Committee on Texas SB8, when three Congresswomen told their abortion stories. Women are speaking out. In December, Mississippi comes before the Supreme Court. For my entire time in Congress we hadn’t had a pro-choice majority, until this year. We passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, codifying Roe. It has to pass in the Senate. We could pass it except for the filibuster. We have to carve out an exception. There is no democracy if women cannot control their own bodies, make their own reproduction choices. It is so outrageous, I can’t believe we are still fighting for this.
Brita Filter: Abortion rights are LGBTQ rights.
Congressman Jerry Nadler, who, over 50 years ago, lobbied the New York State Assembly to legalize abortion: It’s been 30 days since women were stripped of their constitutional rights, their freedom to make their own decisions of their lives, their bodies. That’s 30 days too many.
Amsi: The battle for reproductive rights is not new. It’s been long, hard, frustrating.
Pascale Bernard, Planned Parenthood of New York City: History is repeating. We have been here before. Enough is enough. Women in Texas are having to drive to Oklahoma, having to choose between paying for an abortion or feeding their children. People are scared. Justice Ginsburg told us to dissent, she left a roadmap to protect reproductive rights. We are lucky in New York, but we nee dto close loopholes, we need an abortion fund so women can come to New York for care, for safety.
Cathy Rojas, a teacher and candidate for NYC mayor running as a Socialist: We need to build a sustainable people-powered movement ion New York City, In Texas, where people were freezing and is one of worst states to live – hunger, poverty of children, maternal mortality – they are leading the attack on abortion rights. So when claim is about protecting life, is really about protecting profit over lives.The right wing don’t give a damn about lives. Instead of dealing with the real crises are attacking abortion rights. Congress is ineffective at passing laws for basic necessities, but quick to bail out banks and the ultra rich. They always find time to attack women, LGBTQ and the vulnerable. This is not just about a bad law, but the whole damn system – the bigots, the politicians for hire, the courts up to the Supreme Court, the corporate control of the media, the police and ICE. I am fed up with capitalism. We need systemic change.
The Band Betty: We are one-fourth through the 21st century. I don’t see flying cars or universal health care. I see women being told to be ashamed. Until women have equal rights in the Constitution, we will continue to see how the state commands our fate.
Rev. Nori Rost, New York Society of Ethical Culture: They are “protecting” a fetus with a heartbeat? How about fighting for people who already have a heart beat. Anti-choice, anti-woman is nothing new – it is about subjugation, oppression. We will not give up, shut up, slow down, sit down until all people have agency over their own body. We are among millions marching as one, we will not be stopped.
Jeannie Park (Warriors in the Garden): Abortion bans have no humanity, no exception for rape, incenst. 3 million have experienced rape, the next 3 million will be forced to carry to term. The penalty to abort is more severe than to rape. Women’s bodies are more regulated than guns. What does it mean to be pro life if you only value certain lives. Encouraging vigilantes, bounty hunters is too lcose to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. I will not go back.
Miriam Elhajli sings a song 100 years old, “Wagoner’s Lad,” and sounding so much like Joan Baez who sang it: “Oh, hard is the fortune of all woman kind/She’s always controlled, she’s always confined/Controlled by her parents until she’s a wife/A slave to her husband the rest of her life”
Carol Jenkins, Co-President and CEO of The ERA Coalition and the Fund for Women’s Equality: The Equal Rights Amendment has been around for 100 years; it has been 50 years since passed in Congress, now 38 states have ratified it, so could be published in the Constitution. The only hold up is a time limit, put into the introduction, not the amendment. The root of sexism, misogyny, and racism is in the Constitution, written by slaveholding white males. Everything we’ve been doing since has been to repair what was left out of the Constitution. We have to put the ERA on list of things, so we don’t have to keep repairing the Constitution. Congress has removed the timeline twice, it is now in the Senate. We are done having to beg for rights, gather in the streets and ask “please”. Go to ERACoalition.org.
By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features, news-photos-features.com
New York State Governor Kathy Hochul came out hopping mad over the Texas abortion ban strategy and swinging at the Planned Parenthood Day of Action Rally in support of abortion access, making a sweeping invitation to any woman in a state where abortion access is obstructed, to come to New York, a sanctuary.
“We are here to show the rest of the nation that New Yorkers stand with every single one of you. Women across this nation, we have your back.”
She declared, “Right now, we have oppression going on in our own country when people are trying to tell women what to do with their own bodies. It stops here in New York. Let’s take this battle all across the nation. To Washington, to Texas, and anywhere else that they think they have a right to have their hands on our bodies.
“Keep your damn hands off our bodies.”
In addition, Governor Hochul announced an agenda to affirm abortion rights and cement New York’s status as a place to welcome women seeking abortion care.
Governor Hochul was joined by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to lay out their combined efforts to fight for reproductive rights. As part of these efforts, the Governor is directing State agencies to coordinate a statewide public information campaign, including the development of a patient bill of rights, in coordination with stakeholders. This campaign will help women know their rights and legal protections and ensure this information is accessible and widely available. The Governor also directed the Department of Health to take immediate action to develop and widely distribute modern and comprehensive provider guidance on the right to provide abortion care and to ensure updates to existing regulations are adopted so that medication abortion can be more easily accessed during telehealth visits.
“Abortion access is safe in New York – the rights of those who are seeking abortion services will always be protected here,” Governor Hochul said. “This plan will affirm that in our state, and leaders like Senator Gillibrand will fight on a national level. To the women of Texas, I want to say I am with you. Lady Liberty is here to welcome you with open arms.”
Recognizing that national attention on abortion issues may make misinformation more likely to spread, the Governor also wrote a letter to Facebook urging the company to provide information on any current efforts to mitigate the spread of abortion misinformation online and to take new action to combat misinformation about abortion laws, regulations, and availability.
Here is a highlighted transcript:
Are you all fired up? I am fired up. I love a good fight. But I’ll tell you, my friends, this is a fight that I thought ended when my mother was starting out as a parent, as a young person. I had no idea that all these years later we’d be fighting the same fight that grandma and my mom fought, that my own daughter now has her rights threatened by crazy people in places like Texas.
We are sick and tired of being sick and tired, are we not? Have you heard that before? We don’t want to be fighting this anymore, but we are ready. We are here to show the rest of the nation that New Yorkers stand with every single one of you.
Women across this nation, we have your back. We will not abandon you just because we are far more enlightened in our respect for women’s bodies, and I have been a fighter on the forefront of this battle since 27 years ago when I ran for local office, running for a simple town board in a small town, and I was told in this very conservative community, if I didn’t take the “Right to Life” political line that I would never get elected in a million years. And I said, well watch this. I would not touch that line. I ran for office and I won overwhelmingly, time and time and time again.
And I say that because that is what’s going on in other parts of our nation and even in parts of our own state. And I’ll tell you one more story. I am so passionately engaged in making sure that every woman never has to find her way to a back alley, or to fight for simply having contraception access. I will join this battle and I will help lead the nation in this fight because when I was a member of congress, as member of congress I fought for the Affordable Care Act, because I thought health rights are human rights. It’s that simple. Everybody deserves the dignity of good healthcare and included in that was the right to contraceptive coverage by employers. They had to provide this, and I stood firm for that, and as a result that was an issue that I lost my seat in Congress on, and I would do it all over again because sometimes you just have to stand up and do what’s right and stand up for other people. And that’s what you’re doing here, standing in the rain in Brooklyn today. I am so proud of you, every one of you.
I want to thank our great borough president, Eric Adams, who is hosting us. Thank you, future Mayor Eric Adams. And to all of the elected officials who are here today. This is a battle that’s always happening in the streets. It’s happening at the Planned Parenthoods facilities that I’ve gone to after they’ve been subjected to attacks and terrorist actions.
We have to stand together and let people know that there is a reason why we feel we should be the sanctuary for people across this nation whose rights are attacked, whether it’s Texas or anywhere else because in 1886 they erected a beautiful woman in our harbor with her hand held high with torch in it, a beacon of hope for people who are oppressed.
And right now, we have oppression going on in our own country when people are trying to tell women what to do with their own bodies. It stops here in New York. Let’s take this battle all across the nation. To Washington, to Texas, and anywhere else that they think they have a right to have their hands on our bodies.
Keep your damn hands off our bodies. Keep your damn hands off our bodies. We are sick and tired. We are going to take this battle anywhere it occurs, and I want to thank all of you. You inspire me. You inspire me, each and every one of you when I come out here and I see your passion to fight for other people and make they have their dignity and rights. I want to thank you, Joy, and all our friends at Planned Parenthood for being there when we need you the most.
I am going to join this army, I’m going to help lead this army, whatever you need me to do, I will be there my friends. It’s all about showing up just like you showed up here on this beautiful day in Brooklyn. Thank you everybody.
Standing Up for Women’s Reproductive Rights
Senator Gillibrand said,”Having control over your own body and your own future is a basic human right. But that right is being threatened every day. The recent law in Texas – and the Supreme Court’s refusal to block it – is dangerous and disturbing. This law is not just unconscionable, it’s unconstitutional. At the federal level, we must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would create federal protections against state restrictions that fail to protect women’s health and intrude upon personal decision-making. Here in New York, we luckily have a governor who understands and champions fundamental reproductive rights. I stand ready to support Governor Hochul’s efforts to ensure that providers, patients and the people of New York have the best information about abortion care and the resources to get the care they need.”
Representative Carolyn B. Maloney said, “The Supreme Court’s failure to block the draconian Texas anti-choice SB8 law flies in the face of decades of precedent and is a major blow to Americans’ constitutional right to an abortion. SB 8 makes it illegal to end a pregnancy under nearly all circumstances after 6 weeks — before most people even know they’re pregnant. This devastating ruling by the highest court will most impact BIPOC and lower income individuals who often do not have the same access to health care or ability to travel out of state to access an abortion. The House has already voted to repeal the Hyde Amendment, and we must pass the Women’s Health Protection Act. Here in New York, I’m so proud to have a governor like Kathy Hochul, who I know will work each and every day to protect New Yorkers’ reproductive rights.”
New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “In New York, we have shown that we are ready to protect women’s right to choose and access high quality reproductive healthcare,” “I want to thank Gov. Hochul and all the partners involved in this campaign, for amplifying the message that in New York, we will continue to be the standard bearers for women’s reproductive rights. With this campaign we are saying that in New York, women’s health matters, women’s decisions matter and the reproductive rights of ALL New Yorkers’ and visitors alike are protected.”
Senator Liz Krueger, Co-Chair of Bipartisan Pro-Choice Legislative Caucus said, “For many years before we passed the Reproductive Health Act in New York, we were told by opponents of choice that it was unnecessary, because the Supreme Court would never overturn Roe v. Wade. And yet here we are: just two years after passing the RHA, a Court packed with radical extremists has upheld Texas Republicans’ flagrantly unconstitutional forced-birth law. Opponents of reproductive freedom have made clear that their attacks on women will not let up, so neither can we. I thank Governor Hochul for taking a strong stand for the rights of women and families to make their own reproductive decisions without government interference.”
Assemblymember Deborah J. Glick said, “Texas’ draconian abortion ban is deeply disturbing, but not surprising. Despite a majority of Americans supporting a pregnant person’s right to choose, anti-choice extremists continue to try to undermine our constitutional right to seek reproductive health care, including abortions. I have worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen reproductive rights, and I am proud to have led the charge to codify Roe v Wade in New York State state law in the Reproductive Health Act for just this eventuality. Texas’ disgraceful law shows us why we must continue to fight to protect our right to choose.”
Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, incoming Chair of the New York State Assembly Task Force on Women’s Issues said, “We cannot allow oppressive, anti-woman bans on our bodies to penetrate our state or nation. The GOP-led stripping of women’s rights in Texas must be stopped. We need to protect women from the Court’s inaction, which could jeopardize our reproductive rights everywhere. I am grateful to the Governor, Kathy Hochul, and Sen. Gillibrand for taking a stand to make sure these archaic laws never undermine our health care in the state of New York.”
Assemblymember Kimberly Jean-Pierre, Chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus said, “Make no mistake, Texas’s draconian new abortion law is an unconstitutional attack on the reproductive rights of women across our nation. Here in New York, we will always stand up for the right of women to make their own reproductive health choices, and under the leadership of Governor Hochul, I know that our state will continue to be a safe haven for women and their access to care in the face of this abhorrent assault on our fundamental rights to reproductive freedom.”
Assemblymember Karines Reyes, Co-Chair of Bipartisan Pro-Choice Legislative Caucus said, “The abortion ban recently enacted in Texas is completely reprehensible. A women’s right to an abortion is just that – a right – and in New York we will always do everything we can to protect a women’s right to choose. I thank Governor Hochul for taking aggressive actions to affirm abortion rights in New York and making sure that every woman in New York knows her rights.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer said, “While other states are cracking down on reproductive rights with needless and extreme laws, here in New York State Governor Kathy Hochul is taking action to ensure that we remain a beacon of hope. All reproductive health, including abortion must be legal, safe, accessible, and affordable. That’s what today’s announcement by Governor Hochul aims to promote.”
Robin Chappelle Golston, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts said, “Make no mistake – there is a national effort to destroy access to abortion in this country and we must be just as aggressive to expand reproductive healthcare. This is our moment, to not just hold the line on access to abortion here in New York, but to boldly advance it. Everyone deserves the freedom to control their own body, make personal decisions and shape their own future. I want to thank Governor Hochul for her shared and unwavering commitment to this vision, and for the steps she is taking to ensure New York remains a beacon of freedom and access for all.”
Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union said, “We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again: New York will open its doors to those in need of an abortion and stand up against any state that puts a bounty on reproductive freedom. In the face of Texas’ blatantly unconstitutional attacks on abortion access, we applaud Governor Hochul’s decisive action in partnering with experts and stakeholders to ensure New York is a haven state for all who need abortion care. We will not let Texas, or any other state that tries to follow suit, turn back the clock.”
Camille A. Clare, MD, MPH, CPE, FACOG, chair of ACOG District II said, “In a time when women’s reproductive healthcare is under attack across this country, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, District II is proud to stand with Governor Hochul as she prioritizes access to comprehensive abortion services. Abortion is health care and ACOG District II supports and uplifts the voices of the women seeking abortion services and the medical professionals who provide them. New York State must become a safe haven for anyone seeking abortion care and our medical leadership looks forward to partnering with the Governor and the Department of Health as they work to ensure a comprehensive and transparent system of abortion care here in New York.”
Andrea Miller, President of the National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund said, “Texas has passed the most extreme abortion ban in the country, leading to a crisis point for abortion access. The NIRH Action Fund is pressing forward in every state and city we can to secure equitable access to abortion care — because everyone who needs care should receive with it with support, with dignity, and without fear. We applaud Governor Hochul for taking bold action to ensure that New York State is doing all it can to ensure access to all New Yorkers and all those who travel here for care. We invite governors and legislators in states across the country to follow her lead.”
Plan to Ensure the Right to Abortions in New York State
In an effort to ensure the right to abortions in New York State, the Department of Health will develop webpage on the provision of abortion care, complete with a Patient Bill of Rights. This will include information on abortion care in New York State, patients’ rights to abortion care within New York State, and links to identify providers who offer abortion services.
DOH will convene a group of experts to develop and issue a guidance document on the provision of abortion care in New York State. This will include collaboration from American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, National Abortion Federation, National Institute for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, New York Civil Liberties Union and clinical providers with an expertise in abortion care. Webinar on guidance document and clinical considerations will be open to providers across New York State and recorded for ongoing availability on the DOH website.
Guidance for Individual Provider Discretion Under Reproductive Health Act
The New York State Department of Health will develop guidance with an emphasis on clarifying the full scope of individual provider discretion under the Reproductive Health Act, and the definition of the term “commencement of pregnancy” as it relates to abortion care. The New York State Abortion Guidance Document will be shared with all New York State clinical providers able to perform abortion in New York State via the Health Commerce System.
The Department of Health will enact regulatory updates including to allow for provision of services via telehealth. These updates will ensure that medication abortion is more easily accessed during telehealth visits, and with the goal of making this an option irrespective of the pandemic.
Though it is unlikely that women will re-create the 750,000 who marched on Washington with millions more around the world who turned out in 2017 in the largest single day of protest in history, vastly outnumbering those who came out the day before on the National Mall to watch Trump swear to uphold the Constitution and protect the nation against enemies foreign and domestic, it is crucial that people turn out for the women’s marches in Washington, DC (Meet at Freedom Plaza, 1455 Pennsylvania Ave. at 10 am, womensmarch.com), New York City (at Central Park West & 72nd Street, 11 am, womensmarchalliance.org) and many other cities in 2020, taking place on Saturday, January 18.
The disappointing reality after that
first spectacular Women’s March is how little it accomplished. Lawmakers could
care less, based on the policies they enacted, including moving so close to
repealing Obamacare except for Senator McCain’s last-second vote, and tax
policy that discriminated against women’s health, and shifted $1 trillion in
resources from infrastructure and services for everyday Americans to the
richest 1% and corporations. They could care less for the hundreds of
thousands who pleaded for sensible gun laws, or for climate action and
There isn’t even the same buzz as in
the 2018 march in Washington and around the country (200,000 attended in New York City,
alone) , so much more significant because the protest was less about
“converting” lawmakers than mobilizing voter registration, inspiring
women to run for elected office, and driving turnout in the November mid-terms.
And they did in historic numbers, putting Democrats back in control of
the House which put the brakes to the extent possible on the worst impulses of
Trump and the Republicans. “I can do whatever I want as president,” Trump
declared at a Turning Point event with young Republicans. (After the House
Republican majority’s first success in repealing Obamacare in 2017, Trump said,
‘I’m president. Can you believe it?”)
In 2019, tens of thousands
marched in New York City, calling for action on a Woman’s Agenda
that encompasses everything from pay parity, paid parental leave, affordable
child care and pre-K to immigration reform, gun violence prevention, climate
action, criminal justice reform – in other words, the gamut of social,
political, environmental and economic justice. And yes, reproductive freedom.
During 2019, which opened with Trump
declaring a “national emergency” to justify shutting down the federal
government in order to extort billions to build his wall, migrants continued to
be separated and die in custody, thousands were sent to horrific and dangerous
conditions in Mexico; gun violence reached new heights; climate disasters have
exploded around the globe; and reproductive freedom has been further
600,000 women lost birth control
coverage last year because of the Trump Administration’s attacks on your
healthcare; funding for women’s health clinics has been eliminated and
artificial barriers to their operation have forced many to close. The Hyde
Amendment which bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, serves as a
de facto ban for a quarter of low-income women.
Even more is at stake in 2020, when
Trump and Trumpism is on the ballot. Over this first term, he has been
increasingly emboldened and unbridled, to the point where he believes he can
unleash a war while schmoozing on the golf course.
So far, the organizers of this
Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington, took out a permit for 10,000.
The women’s movement, inexplicably
and yet probably not, has gotten wound up, bogged down and even subverted with
other issues – racism, anti-Semitism. Leaders are bending over backwards to
show how progressive, how inclusive they are, and moving away from the key
issues that women are fighting for.
Women’s issues wind up being about
all these other issues because all of them affect women’s ability to have equal
opportunity, earn what they deserve in order to provide for their families: war
and peace, climate change, living wage, public education, health care,
affordable pharmaceuticals, clean air and water, voting rights, gun safety,
DACA and immigration reform.
But at the heart of all of them is
women’s reproductive rights, under threat as never before by a radical
right-wingers in Congress and on the courts determined to disregard law and
precedent and overturn Roe v Wade (along with Obamacare) with a Supreme Court
that has been shifted radically right because of the illegitimate appointments
secured by Trump and Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (along with hundreds of
judges throughout the federal court system that are long-lasting bombs to
womens rights and civil rights.
The Roe v Wade decision in 1973
ruled that the Constitution protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose to
have an abortion without excessive government restriction – in other words, it
was built upon some extrapolation of privacy and property rights, rather than
Overturning Roe v Wade would mean
that women, unlike men, are not entitled to the same right to
self-determination, to make their own judgments and choices for their health,
their body, their family or their lives. And like all those other cases that
Ginsburg argued as the leading gender rights lawyer for the ACLU before
becoming Supreme Court Justice, it would re-establish the systemic barriers to
women (not men) to fulfill all their aspirations and abilities. It is as
Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democratic candidate for president, said, when women
are forced out of the career track, they never get back to where they were if
they return at all. This I s the result of unaffordable, inaccessible quality
child care and the lack of universal pre-K.
It would essentially make women a subject
of the state, forced to give up professional aspirations to care for a child,
or spend inordinate amounts of money and resources on child care, put women
into poverty because all of these social services are also being tied to work
while doing nothing to make childcare affordable, taking away food stamps and
school lunch. It’s not one thing, it’s many different elements.
As Justice Ginsburg said, “The
decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her
well-being and dignity. It is a decision she must make for herself. When the
government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a
fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”
And the Supreme Court decision would
not necessarily mean that the state you live in would determine if you might
have access to abortion, which would set up a different category of unequal
protection – their ruling could make abortion illegal nationwide by
establishing “personhood” rights of a fetus, in which case the fetus would have
more rights than its mother.
Women are marching for affordable
child care, quality public education, affordable and accessible health care
without higher cost for women or for pre-existing conditions (which before
Obamacare rendered women of child-bearing age), or lifetime caps on coverage at
a time when middle class families are spending 20% of income ($12,000/year) on
health insurance, 35 million can’t afford life saving drugs they are
prescribed, 30,000 die prematurely because of lack of access to health care,
and 500,000 go bankrupt because of medical bills.
Women are marching for environmental
justice at a time when the Trump Administration is making it easy for polluters
to destroy the air and water producing creating public health issues such as
asthma affecting a child’s ability to succeed in school, and worker
productivity. It means climate justice at a time when the Trump Administration
is actually prosecuting those who would try to reduce carbon emissions (they
are trying to prosecute the four auto manufacturers who said they would comply
with California’s emissions standards for anti-trust violations), while
families are losing their homes, their workplaces and communities have to spend
fortune to rebuild after climate disasters.
Women are marching for gun safety so
that parents and children don’t have the constant anxiety and school districts
and communities don’t have to spend a fortune on security rather than programs
that benefit people.
This year’s march may be the most
important one, just as the 2020 election is the most important one of our
lifetimes (and yes, 2016, as we now know, was the most important election up
until this one).
The march is an affirmation, brings
like-minded people together, validates our case, and yes, motivates and
provides a platform for people to run for office, as in 2018, and win their
The march is not about “them” it is
That is why it is so very important
to have a strong turnout for this year’s marches, the fourth year in a row,
especially in 2020, the centennial of women winning the right to vote,
especially in this election year when the nation faces an existential threat
from its own government. Women must turn out, and continue the momentum
of 2018 into the 2020 election.
Virginia could be the 38th
state to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which would make the ERA the 28th
amendment to the Constitution, though the opponents argue that the votes by the
other 37 states have expired, and we’ll have to go through this entire 60-year
process all over again. (Trump’s
The opponents argue there is no
reason for an amendment that certifies the equal rights of all people. But
based on the policies, laws and lawsuits at the federal and state level, an ERA
is more necessary than ever, because as we have seen from the Supreme Court,
precedents like Roe v Wade and one-person, one-vote, or equal protection for
all are fungible.
This is a crucial year for women to
turn out, not allow the momentum of 2018 to be lost, but rev up for the 2020 election.
So whip out those pink pussy hats
and march for women’s rights on Saturday, January 18. March as if your ability
to determine your own future is at stake.
Some 200,000 took over the streets of New York City for the Womens March, exactly one year after Donald Trump gave his dystopic inauguration speech and one year after the first Womens March that brought out millions in the largest single day of protest in history.
The Government shutdown kept Kristin Gillibrand away. It also overshadowed news coverage.
No matter. The women had already learned that the change we need, the rights we want, are up to us. It was important to be together, to see comrades in arms, to be amid a sea of people – 200,000 was the official count in New York City – who despite the fact there were 280 other womens marches taking place across the country including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago with about 2 million turning out – still came from all over the country, all ages and walks of life.
They marched for the Womens Agenda, which includes a score of vital issues: an end to sexual harassment, assault and extortion is one; reproductive rights and the right to self-determination as well as Equal Protection is another (somehow always get overshadowed and put on a back-burner of priorities). But the list encompasses access to affordable health care, gun violence prevention, environmental protection, protection for Dreamers and rational, humane immigration reform that keeps families together and ends the torture of insecurity. They marched for justice and fairness: political, social, economic, environmental and criminal justice.
There was definitely a change in attitude from last year, when people marched to show their despair over the selection by the Electoral College of Donald Trump as president, despite Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be a serious contender for President, winning 3 million more popular votes, and they marched to put the Republican majority in Congress on notice which they didn’t heed. This year, the Womens March was ramped up on anger and a new jeer, courtesy of Trump himself: “Shithole” is what marchers yelled as they passed Trump International on Columbus Circle, his incarnation; otherwise placid grey-haired suburban women giving the middle finger.
Anger and determination. It doesn’t matter whether or not the news media covered – in this case, the conundrum, “if a protest happens but no one reports it, did it happen?” doesn’t apply. The marchers aren’t asking permission, they are marching to register voters, launch the candidacy of a record number of women (390 for House, 49 for Senate, as many as 16,000 for state and local offices), and get out the vote in the 2018 midterms.
Hillary Clinton tweeted, “In 2017, the Women’s March was a beacon of hope and defiance. In 2018, it is a testament to the power and resilience of women everywhere. Let’s show that same power in the voting booth this year. #PowerToThePolls”
Instead of Trump and the Republicans heeding the message of the 2017 womens marches, the year has been one long travesty – the news didn’t bother to report – about stripping away women’s reproductive freedom (441 rulings limiting access just since Jan. 1), access to health care, their children’s health care, rolling back the regulations that protected the environment and public health and safety, launching reign of terror against undocumented immigrants, a tax code that literally robs working people to further enrich the already obscenely rich and undermines the ability to reach the American Dream and threatens Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP.
“The 2017 Women’s March unleashed a collective energy for change that continues to this day,” Laura McQuade, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood of New York City said at a pre-march rally held by New York Planned Parenthood. “President Trump and Congress have spent the last year pushing policies to take away our hard won rights, roll back our ability to make decisions about our own lives, and block access to the fundamental health care we need and deserve. And we’ve responded with the largest grassroots movement in a generation. New York must be a leader in this fight. We have the momentum behind us and we won’t stop fighting until ALL New Yorkers have the ability to live the fullest lives they can.”
“We march to demand full equality for women,” JoAnn Smith, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Nassau County.“We know that 2018 promises to be a pivotal year for women’s health and rights. If 2017 taught us anything, it is that woman are a potent political force in fighting for a just world.”
“The Women’s March tapped into an energy that is even more powerful one year later,” Vincent Russell, President & CEO, Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic.“In the past year, we defeated Trumpcare and attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, witnessed voters turn out to make their voice heard with amazing results, and saw victims of sexual harassment speak out and say ‘No more!’ I continue to be amazed by our dedicated supporters who turn out, sign petitions, and march to ensure that each individual is empowered to determine their own reproductive future and have control over their own body.”
“We must step forward to achieve our goals,” says Robin Chappelle Golston, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts. “While the Women’s March started in the streets like many other social movements throughout history, the energy and power must transition into deeper action to create lasting change in policies and laws, to counter this harmful federal agenda. We must march toward seats in the halls of power, call out injustice and push for legislative change locally and on a state level. We must protect our people against discriminatory and damaging policies that impact access to justice, health care and progress in this country.”
At the rally before the march, New York State Attorney General declared, “I’m your lawyer.” He was referring not only to women’s rights including reproductive rights, but the due-process rights of the undocumented, of the Dreamers.
“Equal justice means that there is not one set of rules for the powerful and another for everyone else.
“This is a moment of transformation for the US. All of you here and across the country, showing up, registering and mobilizing, have built a movement to transform the country. You are no longer just the opposition. You are committed to justice and making sure government delivers.
“We believe in unions and the right to organize; that health care is a right, not a privilege; in a woman’s right to control her body and reproductive health care. If not, a woman is not truly free. We embrace a vision of America as one of pluralism and diversity, equal justice. We fight for the rights of immigrants. We are against white supremacy, against male supremacy in all its forms.
“I’m proud to be your lawyer, to fight the toxic volcano of bad policy, to fight for justice, equality, fairness, dignity and respect. We can never go back, only forward.”
Halsey, a Grammy winning Jersey girl, told her story on behalf of the many victims of sexual assault and extortion in the way that best captured the emotion, in a stirring poem:
It’s 2018 and I’ve realized nobody is safe long as she is alive
And every friend that I know has a story like mine
And the world tells me we should take it as a compliment
But then heroes like Ashley and Simone and Gabby, McKayla and Gaga, Rosario, Aly
Remind me this is the beginning, it is not the finale
And that’s why we’re here
And that’s why we rally
Ashley Bennett, newly elected Atlantic County, NJ Freeholder, said she was motivated to challenge her opponent after last year’s March when he said he hoped the women would get back in time to prepare dinner. “Because you marched, I took the first step toward changing my own community… people standing together for equal citizenship, pay, respect. When ordinary people stand for what they believe, for a common purpose, for the betterment of their community, extraordinary things happen…You don’t have to be perfect, just willing.”
The women marched for workers rights, for a living wage, for the right to collective bargaining.
Nancy Kaufman of the National Council of Jewish Woman, working on behalf of civil rights, workers rights, immigrant rights, women’s rights for 125 years, said, “We work to resist racism, sexism, Islamophobia” battling back against the “repeated, relentless assault on the Affordable Care Act, the goal of ending access to healthcare for millions.” The Republicans, she said, were willing to shut down government rather than allay the anxiety of Dreamers, or to reauthorize health care for 9 million children.
“Enough, we’re fed up. Persist and Resist because our democracy depends on it, for us, for our children and grandchildren. Our voices, our votes will count in November 2018 and November 2020. March on, turn passion into action today and every day.”
Ann Toback of the Workman’s Circle, fighting for worker and immigrant rights since 1909, winning the 8 hour workday, child labor laws, worker safety. “As Jews, we know too well the danger of name-calling, threats, closing borders…. The Jewish community is here to say, ‘Never again, the subjugation of women, immigrants, Muslims. All must be welcomed, protected, empowered. The way to victory is for all to stand united and resist bigotry. Attacks on one are attacks on all. Fight back the attacks on women, the deportation of 800,000 Dreamers whose only crime was not being born here – they didn’t cause the shutdown. Trump caused it…. We will rise up, resist. We will win.”
Actors Veronica Dunne and Rosie Perez spoke to the #MeToo movement and the need for women to mobilize. “This is our time. Power to the Polls. Create the world you want to live in because no one will do it for you.”
Nadina LaSpina spoke up for the rights of those with disabilities. “My body, my choice. We want control over the way our bodies are cared for and who cares for us, choose where care is provided – in home not an institution, not having treatments or drugs forced, never being denied care we need or want, not having strangers grab us, ask personal questions, stare with contempt, view with suspicion of a disability that is not obvious or visible, the assumption that a disability makes us less valuable as human beings. But this is a marginalized group that everyone can join – you never know what will happen. It intersects with all other s- women, color, immigrant, LGBTQ, seniors, poor. Many are forced into poverty by discrimination in the workplace – those with disabilities earn 37% less than persons with equal qualifications. Many are forced into poverty by the for-profit health care system. You have to impoverish yourself to be eligible for Medicare to pay for long-term care. Medicaid is under attack.
Disabled activists were dragged out of Congress and arrested, but stopped a bill that would have taken away your health care. Health care must be equal for all. Medicare for all, and include long-term care.
“We are strong fighters, we’ve been fighting for a half-century. We are not going to let our hard won rights be stripped away by a brutal, vicious administration and Congress. Put an end to this political nightmare. Move forward toward equality for all.”
Sulma Arzu-Brown, an immigrant rights advocate, said, “What 45 has done to this country has taken us back decades, even centuries. I never thought this country would be banning Muslims…. Save the soul of this nation and don’t let 45 destroy what we built. Show up for one another.”
“The Religious Freedom Act has been revived, marginalizing LGBT and repudiating the rights movement. Don’t let them dictate what we do with our bodies, how we choose to live our lives.”
Whoopi Goldberg told the rally, “The only way we are going to make a change is to commit to change.” (See video https://youtu.be/NjpJdF_9JuQ)