We’re Running Out of Time: Albany Must Take Action to Break Down Barriers to Abortion

English translation of op-ed published in Spanish 6/1/22 in El Diario

By Eugenia Montesinos

As reproductive healthcare providers who provide abortions, we, like many other people across the US, are outraged at the leaked Supreme Court decision on abortion that will put millions of Americans at risk in years to come. 

The facts are simple: abortion is healthcare and everyone should have the right to the care they need to lead healthy and happy lives. That is what motivated us to go into careers in healthcare in the first place. When our patients’ health is on the line, we have no choice but to fight back. 

The right to an abortion is protected in New York state law but too many barriers remain that can make this decision feel almost impossible for low-income New Yorkers. We see this play out day in and day out in the poor and working-class communities of color that we serve. 

The lack of affordable healthcare makes an unplanned pregnancy untenable for many New Yorkers. One patient recently had to stop taking birth control because she couldn’t afford it. She became pregnant soon after and made the difficult choice to have an abortion because she couldn’t afford to add another member to their family as they already struggled to get by and put food on the table.

An abortion can cost more than $1000 for someone without health insurance, and more than 1 million New Yorkers don’t have health insurance, a group that is disproportionately Black, Indigenous, Lantinx and Asian. Like many other routine healthcare procedures, that price could be prohibitively expensive, affecting more people than you might expect: over half of Americans don’t have $1000 on hand for an emergency.

But it’s not just cost that is a barrier for New Yorkers who don’t have health insurance or have to navigate restrictive networks. Insurance that is dependent on employment, marriage or parental relationships also puts vulnerable New Yorkers at risk, potentially keeping them locked in abusive situations in order to receive healthcare. Low-income uninsured pregnant New Yorkers are often turned away from abortion care at private hospitals and must instead find care at a public safety net hospital.

If the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that we can’t take the right to an abortion for granted or we will lose it. Now is the time to protect and expand our rights and we are calling on the Democratic majority in both houses of the state legislature to take urgent action.  

Albany has the opportunity to pass a number of bills this year that will immediately strengthen abortion access for all New Yorkers and for anyone who comes to our state to get one. As healthcare providers who serve low-income patients seeking abortions day-in and day-out we urge the State Assembly and Senate to pass these bills. The Reproductive Freedom and Equity Program is urgently needed to help low-income people access abortions. We also need to pass the bills that will give legal protections to healthcare providers and patients when the patients come from states where abortion is banned.

These bills are urgently needed but they are just the first step. 

Abortion is part of the broad spectrum of quality healthcare that we all deserve. We see too many uninsured and partially insured patients who suffer from health issues that could have been solved if they had access to regular and comprehensive healthcare. Preventive care saves lives, saves money, improves our way of living, improves our communities, education, environment, and economy. 

Our current system profits from our illnesses, instead of keeping all of us healthy and productive. This system increases poverty and racial and economic injustice and inequality. That’s why we also urgently need the legislature to pass the New York Health Act this session to create a single-payer system that covers all care for everyone, that everyone can afford, and is free at point of use.

Abortion should not be a political matter or a bargaining chip, and neither should any aspect of our healthcare. 

There are only a few days left in the legislative session. It’s time for Albany to take action to protect abortion rights and the right of all New Yorkers to get the care they need to thrive. 

Eugenia Montesinos is a Certified Nurse-Midwife in Manhattan and board member of Physicians for a National Health Plan - NY Metro Chapter.

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