Op-Ed | Crystal’s Corner: This Women’s History Month, we deserve action on reproductive rights

crystal hudson reproductive rights
This Women’s History Month, New Yorkers deserve safe and accessible reproductive care, writes Council Member Crystal Hudson.
Photo courtesy of John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

Crystal’s Corner is a monthly column written by New York City Council Member Crystal Hudson (District 35,) Chair of the Committee on Aging.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization last spring left the vast majority of the nation lurching. In the weeks after the decision was leaked to the press, we were forced to grapple with the reality that an unelected, undemocratic body could inflict such harsh consequences on our communities and scrambled to continue delivering necessary abortion and reproductive care to all who needed it.

The Dobbs decision left us in “a different world.” It made clear that long established legal protections can readily be struck down, and it dangerously undermined our faith in an institution meant to safeguard the very democratic principles this nation supposedly holds so high. More than that, the Dobbs decision showed us that the fight for reproductive justice––one where the struggle for racial equality, gender equity, and economic liberation converge to underscore the plight of Black women, Black LGBTQIA+ folks, and poor and working class people across the country, in particular––has not yet been won.

Here in our city and state, the implications of Roe’s repeal are different. Abortion and reproductive care remain legal, yet our right to receive this care still isn’t enshrined into the state’s constitution. Access to reproductive care is far from equitable. Financial and geographic barriers persist, preventing thousands of New Yorkers from receiving necessary services. As states consider laws to criminalize both people traveling to New York to receive abortions and health care providers alike, our doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, and those seeking care remain susceptible to prosecution from out-of-state district attorneys and attorneys general.

However, Albany has solutions to these issues. So does City Hall. In January, both chambers in the state legislature passed the Equal Rights Amendment for the second time. Now, we, the people of New York, have the opportunity to expand the civil protections guaranteed us by the state’s constitution in a 2024 ballot measure. Additionally, at the state and municipal level, we have the responsibility to increase our investment in abortion funds and expand Medicaid reimbursements for abortion and other reproductive and sexual health care services. More than that, we must move to guarantee health care providers the ability to practice medicine without fear of repercussion, professionally and legally. This includes bolstering patient privacy laws.

The Dobbs decision left us with a choice. Take a deep dive into hopelessness, or find strength in one another and continue our fight for equity and justice. And, to help deliver, through the leadership of the Speaker of the City Council and the Women’s Caucus, the largest municipal investment in abortion care in the nation, just weeks after the decision was released, I can say we’ve continued our fight in earnest. We have passed universal doula access bills, health care transparency laws, and more, all in a historic maternal health package. This isn’t to say we can’t do more. In fact, we must do more.

Dobbs comes at a moment when Black mothers face a maternal mortality rate three times higher than that of their white counterparts nationally; and in New York City, a rate eight times higher. At a moment when our for-profit medical system, mired in a long history of racism, leaves the poor and working class with an impossible choice: medicine or food. Life or debt.

Dobbs comes at a moment when the rights of LGBTQIA+ people are threatened daily and our livelihoods endangered by state legislatures bent on perpetuating cycles of discrimination and trauma. At the same time, queer and trans people face the double jeopardy of threats to gender affirming care and abortion access.

Dobbs comes at a moment when conservatives are eager to ban life affirming medical care and also eager to open child welfare cases against Black and brown families. They banned abortion, but they are okay if our kids go hungry. They banned abortion, but handcuff us when we can’t pay school lunch fees. To be clear — pro-life means nothing more than pro-criminalization and pro-cage for poor and working class folks, and Black and brown communities.

At the tail end of this year’s Women’s History Month let us choose not to settle, because building something better is the only path that is truly viable. Let us reflect on an issue that grabbed our attention but was too quickly lost in the current of news and notifications, one that plays out on a national scale, but that begs for local solutions.

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