Gotham Gazette http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/944 Mon, 11 Dec 2017 18:48:49 +0000 en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) With Trump in Office, New York Democrats Show Urgency, and Infighting, on Women's Rights http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6732:with-trump-in-office-new-york-democrats-show-urgency-and-infighting-on-women-s-rights http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6732:with-trump-in-office-new-york-democrats-show-urgency-and-infighting-on-women-s-rights cuomo women's equality act

Cuomo in 2013, via The Governor's Office on flickr


With President Donald Trump taking office and Congressional Republicans chipping away at the Affordable Care Act, including a provision that guarantees cost-free birth control, New York’s Democratic lawmakers are scrambling to fortify protections for women on the state level.

Citing the threat of Trump’s administration, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday that he has instructed the Department of Financial Services -- which regulates insurance companies -- to require commercial insurance providers to cover contraception and “medically necessary” abortions without asking for a co-pay.

The announcement was timed to coincide with women’s rights marches that took place in New York City, Washington D.C., and across the country, as well as the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which despite efforts from the Democratically-controlled New York State Assembly, is not fully codified into state law. Republicans who control the state Senate have refused to pass such a law, though many abortions would be legal in New York even if the Supreme Court, bolstered by a conservative Trump appointee, were to overturn the landmark 1973 ruling. A 1970 New York law permits abortions until 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Cuomo’s contraception and abortion coverage announcement came on the heels of legislation introduced by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and passed by the Assembly earlier this month. Called the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act, the bill, which has not yet been introduced in the state Senate, would codify the co-pay-free contraception provision in the Affordable Care Act.

Cuomo’s women’s health push has received a lot of praise, including from Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, who called the DFS regulation “an important step forward toward ensuring that women have control over their reproductive lives.”

However, members of the Assembly took issue with the governor’s action, saying the regulatory change lacks the permanence of a statute. “We think a law would be the strongest solution,” said Michael Whyland, spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Assembly Member Kevin Cahill, who sponsored the Assembly version of the legislation, said the DFS regulation falls “very seriously short” of the intentions of the bill’s authors and decreases the likelihood of Schneiderman’s bill being introduced in the Senate, which remains under GOP control.

“We are talking about the contraceptive rights that are now at risk because of actions that are being taken in Washington that could have been thoroughly protected through legislation,” said Cahill, a Democrat representing Kingston. “Now the legislative path is significantly less likely because of [the governor’s] action.”

Cahill noted Cuomo’s regulation does not include coverage for male vasectomies, which can take the onus of contraception off of women, or emergency contraception, otherwise known as the “morning-after pill.” The new regulations also omit language authorizing midwives to prescribe or distribute emergency contraception and an educational component to the bill.

“He didn't consult with us at all, and to the best of my knowledge, the attorney general heard about it in a press report,” Cahill told Gotham Gazette. “While it appears on its surface to be laudable, it may have actually made the situation significantly worse."

In response to Cahill's comments, a spokesperson for the governor, Abbey Fashouer, said, “The Governor is taking immediate and decisive action to secure women’s reproductive rights, regardless of what happens at the federal level. To be clear, this doesn’t preclude legislative action, or apparently, grandstanding. This decisive action may rob some individuals of a headline later, but it does ensure that the reproductive rights of millions of New Yorkers are protected today.”

Cuomo's office also noted that vasectomies are not included in the governor's DFS regulations because they are part of the ACA, but not New York insurance law, where birth control for women is covered.

Democrats will continue to push state legislation as opposed to executive regulations since, as Trump is showing on the federal level, executive actions can be rolled back by a new executive.

While state law already mandates that contraceptives be covered without co-pays and bars insurers from denying any type of surgery -- including surgical abortions -- Cuomo’s version clarifies that the law will not change if ACA is repealed. In addition, the new DFS regulation would ban charging co-payments for abortion and requires that insurers provide coverage of birth control for up to 12 months from the initial prescription.

During his campaign, Trump vowed to “repeal and replace” the ACA, otherwise known as Obamacare, and has said he would appoint a Supreme Court justice who opposes Roe v. Wade -- though he has backtracked on both positions in media interviews.

Two of Trump’s first actions in the Oval Office were a vaguely worded executive order toward repeal of the ACA and another to reinstate a ban on spending for reproductive health services for organizations abroad, which is expected increase infant mortality and maternal death rates around the globe.

Toppling Roe v. Wade, which would require at least two new Supreme Court justices, is more complicated than the president has made it seem, but even if it happened, it is not likely to have as much of an impact in New York as it would in, say, South Carolina, according to a new report from the Center for Reproductive Rights. As Trump has pointed out in interviews when expressing somewhat conflicting support for overturning Roe v. Wade, “if it ever were overturned, it would go back to the states.” During a 60 Minutes interview he added of women seeking abortions in states where it would then be illegal, “they’ll have to go to another state.”

Early this year the state Assembly also reintroduced a second bill, the Reproductive Health Act, which updates New York’s law to align with Roe v. Wade. Abortion has been legal in New York since 1970, three years before the Supreme Court decision. Codifying Roe v. Wade on a state level would remove outdated criminal statutes that apply to abortion practitioners when a woman is more than 24 weeks pregnant, add language that prioritizes for the health of the mother over the fetus, and expand the list of medical professionals that could perform abortion to include 21st Century professions, such as physician’s assistants.

These inconsistencies, and the criminal statutes, continue to result in many women being denied care, according to the NYCLU. Last year, Attorney General Schneiderman issued an opinion, stating that abortion be allowed after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable or the mother’s life or health is threatened, as specified by Roe v. Wade, but advocates say New York doctors are still deterred from treating women with sometimes life-threatening health conditions who are more than 24 weeks pregnant.

Though Democratic lawmakers have been pushing this bill for years, Senate Republicans have blocked the motion. In 2013, an effort by the Independent Democratic Conference -- a breakaway group of Democrats that caucuses with Republicans -- to move the bill in the Senate failed. In the 63-seat Senate, 30 Republicans and two Democrats, Ruben Diaz Sr. and Simcha Felder, voted it down. Diaz Sr. and Felder, who also caucuses with Republicans, are still in the Senate and unlikely to support the abortion protections, though Diaz Sr., a Bronx minister, may run for City Council this year and leave the Senate if victorious.

Candice Giove, the spokesperson for the IDC and its leader, Sen. Jeff Klein of the Bronx, told Gotham Gazette, "The Independent Democratic Conference is the only Senate conference whose members are 100 percent pro-choice." Giove's comment is an apparent reference to Diaz Sr. Giove did not make clear whether the IDC plans to push the Senate GOP to take up passage of stronger abortion protections into state law this year.

“We are hopeful that the IDC will support the bill and put their action behind it,” Lieberman of the NYCLU said during a press conference call on Thursday morning. “We know from polling that’s been done that New York is 70 to 80 percent pro-choice. New Yorkers overwhelmingly support the codification of Roe v. Wade and women’s’ rights.”

The codification of Roe v. Wade into New York law was the tenth of ten planks in Gov. Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Agenda, which the governor attempted to push over several years. Cuomo said the Legislature must pass all ten planks together, but as the Senate continued to balk on the abortion provision, Democrats including Cuomo and the Assembly majority opted to pass the nine other planks, which include equal pay provisions, protections for domestic violence victims, bans on pregnancy discrimination in workplaces, and more.

Cuomo, a second-term Democrat, has been criticized for not doing enough to flip the Senate to Democratic control, and for creating in 2014 the Women’s Equality Party, which appears to have been mostly an election year gimmick aimed at hurting the Working Families Party.

A spokesperson for Senate Republicans did not return a request for comment about where the conference majority stands on the abortion bill.

Another criticism of the new Cuomo regulatory directives came from Bill Hammond, director of health policy at the Empire Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank. Hammond said the governor’s move undermines the legislative process and noted that without a provision to address additional expenses incurred by insurance companies, this rule could drive up healthcare premiums.

On the Empire Center’s blog, The Torch, Hammond also questioned why abortions are exempt from co-pays, but other medically necessary procedures, like childbirth, for example, are not.

“If this rule change stands, expect a parade of provider and consumer groups to seek similar consideration from DFS in the months and years ahead,” he writes.

A spokesperson from DFS noted that there will be a 45-day public comment period before the regulations are finalized. The rules will go into effect 60 days later. Trump has promised a Supreme Court nominee next week, but U.S. Senate Democrats, led by New York’s Charles Schumer, have pledged to fight any nominee who is not moderate.

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by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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With Trump in Office, New York Democrats Show Urgency, and Infighting, on Women's Rights Thu, 26 Jan 2017 05:00:00 +0000
100 Years Later, Planned Parenthood of NYC is Still Growing to Meet New Yorkers’ Needs http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6597:100-years-later-planned-parenthood-of-nyc-is-still-growing-to-meet-new-yorkers-needs http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6597:100-years-later-planned-parenthood-of-nyc-is-still-growing-to-meet-new-yorkers-needs ppnyc100 

PPNYC celebrates 100 years with First Lady McCray


One hundred years ago, in 1916, Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC) opened in Brownsville, Brooklyn as a small birth control clinic. Since then, PPNYC has grown to five health centers—one in each borough—and provides sexual and reproductive health care services and information to more than 64,000 New Yorkers each year, and reaches another 25,000 through our extensive sex education programs.

Incredible gains have been made over the past century. PPNYC has been at the forefront of increasing access to birth control, ensuring the availability of safe and legal abortion, and getting coverage for preventive care and birth control under the Affordable Care Act. Today, we continue to be a champion for access to sexual and reproductive health care, improving sexuality education, and advocating for policies that make the lives of New Yorkers better every day.

But even with all the progress we’ve made, we are only just getting started. As the city has grown, we’ve changed and adapted as the communities we serve have changed. Our goal is to expand our services to better meet the needs of all New Yorkers—including men, young adults, gender nonconforming people, and the LGBTQ community.

Today, PPNYC continues to serve Brownsville not as a stand-alone clinic, but through Project Street Beat, an innovative street-based outreach program that provides HIV prevention services and counseling. The Project Street Beat - Keith Haring Foundation Mobile Medical Unit delivers care to some of our city’s most vulnerable individuals by meeting them right in their own community. This year, PPNYC is rolling out new services to provide more care to the communities we serve. In August, we began offering PrEP at our health centers, a daily pill that helps prevent HIV. By the end of 2016, we’ll be offering vasectomies and transgender hormone therapy.

Providing welcoming and trans-affirming care is essential to meet our goal of providing the best possible health care to all New Yorkers. And as always, our services are offered to everyone who comes through our doors—regardless of immigration status or ability to pay.

Along with our new services, our Education Department is also expanding and developing innovative strategies to reach even more New Yorkers, including the launch of a new program called Sexuality Education for Adults. Additionally, Promotores de Salud, PPNYC’s initiative that trains neighborhood residents to serve as peer health educators in the community, will partner with Project Street Beat to offer medical interpreting alongside sexual and reproductive health services.

PPNYC’s work is grounded in the idea that reproductive health and rights are closely intertwined with social justice issues. Many of the communities that we serve experience systemic oppressions dictated by race, gender, ethnicity, income, immigration status, ability, and more. We work alongside community-based organizations and reproductive justice organizations in the fight for a world where access to health care and rights are a reality for all people.

We are determined to fight for this goal now and always, and we are committed to improving the lives of New Yorkers—no matter what. We are 100 years strong and getting stronger. Our vision has always been to work toward a world where people have full control of their bodies and destinies. As we commemorate the extraordinary achievements made over our first 100 years, we are proud to launch our second century with as much passion, courage and conviction as our first.

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Joan Malin is President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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100 Years Later, Planned Parenthood of NYC is Still Growing to Meet New Yorkers’ Needs Fri, 28 Oct 2016 04:00:00 +0000
City’s Menstrual Equity Laws Will Help Reduce Period Stigma http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6418:city-s-menstrual-equity-laws-will-help-reduce-period-stigma http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6418:city-s-menstrual-equity-laws-will-help-reduce-period-stigma IMG 19041

A City Hall rally in support of menstrual equity


My period got me suspended from school. That should not happen to anyone. Yet in New York City and elsewhere, people who have periods—including transgender and gender-nonconforming people—still struggle to access menstrual products and the resources they need. This can hurt their ability to succeed academically, personally, and professionally.

New York just made history when the City Council approved the nation’s first bills of their kind to provide free tampons and pads in all public schools, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, and correctional facilities throughout the city. Making menstrual products accessible is a simple matter of dignity and respect.

No one should have to go through what I went through. I started my period on graduation day from 5th grade when I was only 11. There was no way I could tell any of my classmates; the culture of female shame at my school was overwhelming. In middle school, I had very painful menstruation and ended up fainting in class in 7th grade. Of course my best friend told the whole class why, and my school made me leave to go see my pediatrician immediately - not fun. During 9th and 10th grades I missed exams a few times because of my period. My mom wouldn't allow me to see a gynecologist because she was against birth control, and sexuality overall was a problematic subject in our household.

Since I didn’t feel it was possible to talk to my mom and didn’t grow up living with my dad, I had to sneak off campus when I was 16 to speak to a Planned Parenthood provider about using birth control to alleviate the pain from my periods. Planned Parenthood was the only safe space I felt I could talk about my body. The fear I felt even going to a health clinic made me feel silent and alone, and too fearful to ask for a doctor’s note from the provider. I ended up getting suspended from school after the dean found out I left without parental consent.

This was an offense that would be reported and explained to every university I applied to—all because of period and reproductive health stigma!

Regardless of getting suspended and the aftermath, the experience was triumphant overall because it is why I am now interning for Planned Parenthood of New York City and passionate about menstrual equity. It's also why I supported Columbia's student council president on effective ways to push our administration to provide sanitary pads, rather than just tampons for students.

No one should get suspended or have to miss class because they don't have the resources to take care of their own health and body.

I'm thankful that City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and others are working tirelessly to ensure that individuals in city schools, homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, and jails can access tampons and pads when they need them. I am grateful that Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to soon sign this legislation into law. Periods—a natural bodily process we cannot control—should not be a financial impossibility or emotional burden for anyone!

Making menstrual products accessible will help normalize conversations about menstruation and sexual health. This will help reduce the shame and embarrassment all people who menstruate, especially youth, have felt about their periods.

Eliminating period stigma has the power to change people’s lives. Everyone who has a period deserves access to the resources to meet their essential needs so that they can stay focused on their futures.

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Elle Wisnicki is a Health Center Advocate intern in Public Affairs at Planned Parenthood of New York City and has been a campus representative for Planned Parenthood at Columbia University.

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Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email opinion@gothamgazette.com

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City’s Menstrual Equity Laws Will Help Reduce Period Stigma Tue, 28 Jun 2016 04:00:00 +0000
Stand Against Racism, Protect Asian-American Women's Health http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6108:stand-against-racism-protect-asian-american-womens-health http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6108:stand-against-racism-protect-asian-american-womens-health chin council hearing

Council Member Chin, one of the authors (photo: William Alatriste)


New York City has the opportunity to support Asian-Americans and women's health by opposing deceptively named, so-called "sex-selective abortion bans."

These attacks on a woman's right to choose are wolves in sheep's clothing. At a glance, such bans might sound like laws meant to further women's rights. But they actually do just the opposite.

The tragic reality of "son preference" has been a serious issue in some countries, such as India and China, where women do not have the same rights and status that they have here. But male preference is not a widespread issue in the United States – not for any specific ethnic group or for the population as a whole. In fact, a recent study conducted by the University of Chicago Law School finds that Asian-Americans are giving birth to more girls than white Americans.

Given these facts, the sex-selective bans being introduced across the U.S. are disingenuous at best. They exploit a real problem around gender that has been well documented in other countries to harm the very communities they purport to help.

In an effort to draw attention to these harmful and offensive bans, we have drafted a resolution that was recently introduced in the City Council to put the City of New York on record in opposition to this latest attack on a woman's right to choose.

More than just an attack on reproductive health and family planning services, these bans promote ugly stereotypes about our community – namely, that we as Asian-Americans do not value the lives of our girls.

Many in the Asian-American community already face heightened barriers to accessing care, and laws like sex-selective abortion bans widen the gap. Sex-selective bans also damage the doctor-patient relationship by opening private medical decisions to scrutiny by both health-care providers and law enforcement.

This is not just bad policy; sex-selective abortion bans are dangerous to women's health and could have a chilling effect on women seeking health care. Under no circumstances should patient-doctor parenting discussions be called into question because of one's skin color or ethnicity.

Factors like immigration status, income and cultural and linguistic barriers already make it difficult for women in our community to get the health care they need. In New York City, 49 percent of Asian-American adults have limited English proficiency. And 20 percent of all Asian-Americans in the city are uninsured.

With New York City home to one of the largest Asian-American populations in the country, we must take a stand and demand that our state and federal colleagues work to ensure our communities have greater access to health care — not more restrictions.

In their myopic pursuit of an anti-choice agenda, some lawmakers are irresponsibly placing basic health care needs of the Asian American community at risk. And yet, despite the dangerous consequences, they are having some legislative success. In 2013 and 2014, sex-selective bans were the second most proposed type of abortion restriction in the country. Even New York State is not immune —this year, one such law was introduced in the Assembly. We must stem the tide of these attacks.

By working together with advocates to introduce this new resolution, we are urging our city to take a stand against these offensive bans. If the City Council passes this important resolution, it could become the third city in the country to denounce this attack on access to health care and family planning for thousands of Asian-Americans.

New Yorkers deserve better. Join us in standing up against racism and supporting women's health by urging your City Council representative to support this important resolution.

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by New York City Council Member Margaret Chin and National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum Executive Director Miriam Yeung.

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Stand Against Racism, Protect Asian-American Women's Health Fri, 22 Jan 2016 02:41:40 +0000