JoAnn D. Smith

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Fighting Back Against Nonstop Abortion Bans

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Abortion access is hanging on by a thread. And as Long Islanders, while we can be thankful that the passage of the Reproductive Health Act protects reproductive rights in our state, we cannot and will not sit back while other states cut off access to care for millions.

Recently, the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services (DOSS) announced its plan to revoke the license of the last remaining abortion care provider in the state, a Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, potentially denying 1.1 million Missouri women of reproductive age access to safe and legal abortion. The reasons the DOSS cited for revocation lacked medical merit. 

Essentially, this measure sought to weaponize the Department of Health & Senior Services by using “licensing” as a tool to circumvent legislative action. However, just hours before being shut down, thanks to a lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood, a judge ruled that the state could continue providing abortions until the full license review is completed.

But Missouri is not alone; it’s one of many states passing extreme abortion restrictions and bans across America. To date, abortion bans have also been passed in Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana. Many of these laws do not include exceptions for rape or incest survivors. Others would jail doctors for offering care. 

In 2019 alone, as of June 14, 303 bills restricting abortion care have been filed in 47 states, 135 of which are bans in some or all circumstances. Ninety percent of U.S. counties lack a provider of abortion care. Six states have only one provider. 

These are dark times, indeed.

Make no mistake — these attacks are part of a coordinated plan by those opposed to safe and legal abortion to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

Here at Planned Parenthood of Nassau County, along with our national office and sister affiliates, we are fighting back in the courts, on the streets, and across social media. If there were ever a time to stand up for what you believe, it’s now. 

Stand up for the thousands of patients that depend upon Planned Parenthood in your neighborhood. Stand up, because we need you like never before.

JoAnn D. Smith is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Nassau County

Separating Facts From Myths About The Reproductive Health Act

On January 22, the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) became law in New York State, codifying the tenets of Roe v. Wade into state law, and placing abortion care in the public health code, where it belongs.

Equally important, the RHA guarantees an individual’s right to make her own personal health care decisions with a health care provider during her pregnancy, ensuring that medical decisions are in the hands of providers and patients — not politicians.

The broader truth is that abortion care is health care. With the passage of RHA, the state is leading the charge to destigmatize necessary health care for pregnant individuals who are dealing with real-life situations that happen in real time.

Unfortunately, in the short time since the RHA was passed, a great deal of misinformation about the law has been shared and we would like to explain what RHA really does.

RHA places abortion care in the public health code where it belongs, not in the criminal code, because abortion care is health care.

It also clarifies that trained health care professionals like physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners, working within their scope of practice, can provide abortion care. Why the change? Because medical professionals such as physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners did not exist nearly 50 years ago when New York State’s previous law was passed.

In addition, it ensures that New Yorkers can access the care they need during pregnancy when their life or health is in danger or if their pregnancy is not viable.

To be clear, the RHA prohibits a person who attacks a pregnant person resulting in the loss of the pregnancy from going unpunished, and the attacker can be charged with first degree assault. Moreover, the RHA bars “just any” medical professional to provide abortion care, and imposes civil and criminal penalties for medical providers who act outside their scope of practice.

The last two confirmations to the U.S. Supreme Court — Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch — have made the future of Roe v. Wade uncertain. In response, the New York State legislature has acted decisively — and in alignment with the values of the majority of New Yorkers — to ensure that access to safe and legal abortion is secure in our state, and that New York State lives up to its reputation as a champion for reproductive rights.

JoAnn D. Smith is President & CEO, Planned Parenthood of Nassau County