Testimony: Expanding Abortion Access
Testimony of Sam Skaller
Senior Campus Coordinator
New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault
Before the Committee on Women and Gender Equity
July 1, 2022
Good afternoon, Chair Cabán and the members of the Committee for Women and Gender Equity. I want to thank you for convening this critical hearing to expand reproductive rights access in New York City and for allowing me to testify before you today.
My name is Sam Skaller (she/they), and I am the Senior Campus Coordinator for the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. The mission of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault is to prevent sexual violence and reduce the harm it causes through public education, prevention programming, advocacy for survivors, and the pursuit of legal and policy changes. In doing so, the Alliance works to disrupt systems and institutions that, unfortunately, can retraumatize survivors when they most need our support.
I would like to thank Council Member Cabán for her leadership by introducing this package of bills that aim to expand reproductive justice to those in New York City.
I am here today to advocate for the interests of survivors of sexual violence for whom the services and supports offered through this legislative package is critically important.
Bodily autonomy is about power. Power over your own bodies while respecting the power others have over their bodies.
As a sexual violence prevention educator, the entirety of my work revolves around bodily autonomy. I’m invited to colleges and universities all across the city to empower people to understand the right they have to their own bodies and how to respect others’ bodies. I provide educational trainings, student conduct support, and referrals to hundreds of students, faculty, and staff in New York City and beyond. Over the last 7 years working in this field, I’ve spoken with thousands of people who have had their bodily autonomy violated by a spouse, a partner, a stranger, a family member, an employer, a professor, or a politician. The commonality amongst the perpetrators of sexual violence is abusing power. Without informed consent, those perpetrating sexual violence combine their own power and the power they’ve taken to violate someone’s bodily autonomy. On June 24th, 2022, without the informed consent of the vast majority of Americans, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned Roe v. Wade thus using their power to violate our bodily autonomy. Government institutions spanning from the Supreme Court to this elected body, and everything in between should never replicate the actions of abusers. Eliminating protections for people seeking bodily autonomy after becoming pregnant for whatever reason is an example of an institution abusing its power to violate our bodies. While here in New York State and New York City abortion access remains legal, we should not breathe easy.
According to the CDC almost 3 million women in the U.S have experience rape related pregnancy. Women raped by a current or former intimate partner were more likely to report a rape-related pregnancy. Of women who were raped by an intimate partner, 30% experienced a form of reproductive coercion by the same partner. Specifically, about 20% reported that their partner had tried to forcibly impregnate them when they did not want to or tried to forcibly stop them from using forms of birth control. About 23% reported their partner refused to use a condom.  Reproductive violence is sexual violence.
We at the NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault know that sexual violence disproportionately impacts people holding historically marginalized identities and intersecting identities. Gender diverse communities, ability diverse communities, Black and Brown communities, AAPI communities, Indigenous communities and every intersection in between have not only historically been purposely excluded from the state’s bodily autonomy rulemaking but have and will continue to experience sexual violence at rates higher than that of their cisgender, able-bodied, white counterparts.
While there are no specific data points for NYC to quantify people’s experiences with reproductive and sexual violation, we at the NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault can qualitatively, anecdotally, and humanly argue that one instance of reproductive and sexual violation is too many.
We urge the elected officials sitting here today to use the power and platform they have to take any measures necessary to ensure that despite the overturning of Roe v. Wade, that New York City will be a place for bodily autonomy, choice, and freedom.
With that said, we’d like to share our support for this legislative package (Int0458, Int0466, Int0475, and Int0507.) Each of these Introductions align with our values for bodily autonomy, as they ensure equitable access to reproductive health, protect those seeking abortion services, and track the reproductive needs of New York City.
As this committee moves to take action in strengthening access to abortion and reproductive healthcare, we ask that you consider expanding Int0465 to explicitly require all of DOH-MH annual reporting be anonymous as to not breach the confidentiality or identity of any patients seeking medical care.
Thank you so much for your time today. We look forward to working with you and the whole of the City Council to ensure these important pieces of legislation become law.