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State Governments Are the Last Thing We Should Rely on for Abortion Rights

By Kylie Cheung | Politics | January 31, 2017 |

By Kylie Cheung | Politics | January 31, 2017 |

With President Donald Trump poised to appoint an anti-choice Supreme Court justice, many are obviously concerned about the future of Roe v. Wade. Although it’s highly unlikely that a right as fundamental as the right to an abortion will be overturned, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced that he is fully prepared for such a Supreme Court ruling, and will respond by adding the right to an abortion to the New York state Constitution.

“As they threaten this nation with a possible Supreme Court nominee who will reverse Roe v. Wade,” Cuomo said at the Monday Planned Parenthood rally. “We’re going to protect Roe v. Wade in the State of New York.”

Reuters notes that for a constitutional amendment to be added in New York, majorities in the state’s legislature must approve it twice, and voters must approve it as well.

Cuomo’s pledge marks an important guarantee for the human rights of New York women, but it would be a mistake to allow women’s human rights to be contingent on which state they live in. Historically, prior to Roe when the right to an abortion was decided by states, it was a grim scene for women, especially low-income immigrant women of color who struggled to afford and access contraception and sexual health education. Their inability to access safe abortion due to a potent mix of legal and economic restrictions resulted in countless gruesome, sometimes fatal, back-alley abortions.

The overturning of Roe, while granted very unlikely, on top of the defunding of Planned Parenthood and dismantling of Obamacare and its contraception mandate, would blast women across the nation back in time. In rural, conservative-leaning states where efforts to ban abortion outright or at the very least restrict it to the point of being nearly inaccessible, you could hardly expect state governors would follow Cuomo’s example. As a result, abortion would become a socioeconomic privilege, only accessible to women who could afford to travel to another state and pay for the procedure without any government assistance due to the Hyde amendment.

Ultimately, Cuomo’s heart might be in the right place and his determination to protect the right to abortion in his state is admirable. But if Roe is overturned, the guarantees of liberal governors like Cuomo will mean nothing to poor rural women, who live in states that would seize on any opportunity to obliterate women’s rights.

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