Last night PPRSR hosted an event in Rochester to commemorate the 35th anniversary of Roe vs Wade, which guaranteed the constitutional right to privacy in medical decisions, specifically abortion. We were lucky enough to have the First Lady of New York Silda Wall Spitzer attend and deliver a speech on her and the Governor's commitment to women's health. Over 150 people came and we received lots of local media coverage both in print and on television.
The event, "A Conversation About Women's Health" reflected on the impact of Roe, the importance of reproductive options and the newly introduced Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act (RHAPPA). RHAPPA is an important law recently introduced by Governor Eliot Spitzer. If passed, it would update New York State laws to guarantee the right to reproductive choice regardless of Supreme Court Decisions that could weaken Roe. It also makes a bold statement that New York will always put women's health first.
Mrs. Spitzer received two standing ovations from the audience. In her speech, she explained that RHAPPA acknowledges that the decision to have an abortion, the decision to give birth, or any other medical decision "is one that should be made between a woman and her doctor, not judges, not legislators, not special interest groups, not you and not me." It was one of the most powerful statements of the evening, and shows that both Governor and Mrs. Spitzer understand what being pro-choice is really about. It's not about being "pro-abortion," but making sure that no one's personal views, even the views of those who are pro-choice, can interfere with the private medical decisions of others -- no matter what those decisions are.
Another speaker, the CEO and President of Family Planning Advocates of New York State, JoAnn Smith, made the case that women are excellent decision makers. Women, she said, make choices every day, including the decisions they shouldn't have to make, like choosing between paying the rent or taking a sick child to the doctor. If we can trust women with these decisions, how can we not trust them with their own medical care? Smith also explained that RHAPPA is about more than guaranteeing just one kind of reproductive choice -- the bill would secure the right to choose or refuse abortion and birth control.
Both Smith and Galen Sherwin from the New York Civil Liberties Union explained that New York abortion laws are still in the penal code instead of the health code, and most citizens have no idea! The state was one of the first to legalize abortion in 1970, three years before Roe vs. Wade was decided. Unfortunately, though, the abortion laws have not been updated since then and we rely on Roe to guarantee this right to medical privacy. New York stood up for women's health earlier than most states, and now it's time to stand up again!
Here's a picture of Mrs. Spitzer finishing her speech. Women's health makes us smile, too!
The event was co-sponsored by Family Planning Advocates of New York State, the Rochester Reproductive Rights Task Force, the Greater Rochester Chapter of the National Organization for Woman and the Genesee Valley Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. A big thank you to all of them -- we couldn't have it done alone!
And lastly, welcome to our new blog! We hope to have a lot of our own conversations about women's health here, so stay tuned.