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2019 Abortion access laws

New York State's Pro-Choice
Reproductive Health Act

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2019-JAN-22: New York: Reproductive Health Act (RHA) becomes law, granting abortion access to women in the state:

On 1973-JAN-22, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its famous ruling in the case Roe v. Wade. 1 It gave women across the U.S. access to abortions, with increasing restrictions as their pregnancy progressed. Their decision was based on women's' privacy rights contained within the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Justices' vote was 7 to 2.

In the decades since, many states passed laws in an attempt to restrict women's abortion access more narrowly, with various levels of success. Many women have had to travel to a nearby state to avoid restrictions in their own state.

During one day, 2019-JAN-22, which was the 46th anniversary of the High Court ruling:

  • The NY Senate passed the Reproductive Health Act by a vote of 38 to 24.

  • The NY Assembly passed the bill 92 to 47. 1

  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the bill into law.

The main motivation for passing the law appears to be a concern that the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually reverse its earlier decision in Roe v. Wade and either criminalize all abortions, or severely restrict women's' access to some of them, or allow states to pass abortion-restrictive laws. With President Trump's recent repeated additions of conservative Justices to the Court, reversal of Roe v. Wade is quite likely.

Governor Cuomo issued a press release, stating in part:

"In the face of a federal government intent on rolling back Roe v. Wade and women's reproductive rights, I promised that we would pass this critical legislation within the first 30 days of the new session -- and we got it done. Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman's right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion. With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body." 2

The law makes abortions freely available to women in New York state up to 24 weeks into pregnancy. Abortions are allowed after this point if the mother's life is threatened by the pregnancy and/or if the fetus is not viable -- that is, it would not live after being born.

To celebrate passage of the bill, Governor Cuomo ordered pink lights to illuminate various landmarks in the state, including One World Trade Center.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D) praised the new law as an indication of progress for women. She said:

"New York once led the way on choice and women’s rights. Unfortunately for years, barriers to women’s rights were put up, and our state has fallen behind. Today, we are tearing those barriers down and we are now leading the way again." 3

New York State Right to Life, a pro-life group, criticized the RHA on Facebook, describing it as:

"... an extreme bill."

They promised to fight to:

"... protect children and their mothers, protect the rights of pro-life persons to engage in life-saving activities and express their views, and to build a culture of Life in New York." 3

The National Review also criticized the law, stating that:

"This shameless embrace of a culture of death is startling to every American who cherishes life. Not too long ago, the Democratic party’s stated position was that abortion should be 'safe, legal, and rare.' It was this widespread rejection of late-term abortion that led a large bipartisan majority in Congress to pass the partial-birth-abortion ban in 2003. But now look at how far the Democratic party has fallen.

To support, let alone cheer, late-term abortions not only marks a disturbing step backward by so-called 'progressives' — it also violates every demand of human decency. As modern science has moved the point of viability ever earlier in pregnancy, most Americans have agreed that a child who can survive outside the womb deserves a chance at life. Only a handful of countries, including China and North Korea, allow late-term abortions." 4

Calvin Freiburger, writing for Life Site News, noted:

"Before the new abortion law, New York [state]’s definition of 'homicide' included the death of a:

'person [or an unborn child with which a female has been pregnant for more than twenty-four weeks] under circumstances constituting murder, manslaughter in the first degree, manslaughter in the  second degree, or criminally negligent homicide.'

The RHA deletes the bracketed section, and all other references to abortion or the preborn from the homicide statute.

The RHA removes abortion from the state’s penal code altogether; the homicide statute still defines a ‘person’ as ‘a human being who has been born and is alive,’ FactCheck.org confirmed." 7

On JAN-31, President Trump tweeted:

"Democrats are becoming the Party of late term abortion, high taxes, Open Borders and Crime!." 5

The Roman Catholic church has criticized Governor Cuomo and the law. Some bishops have called for his excommunication. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who is Archbishop of New York, said:

"Those who once told us that abortion had to remain safe, legal and rare now have made it dangerous, imposed and frequent." 5

He referred to the new law as "hideous," but did not excommunicate Andrew Cuomo or any of the Catholic members of the legislature who are Roman Catholic.

Governor Cuomo, a Roman Catholic, responded to his church's criticism, saying:

"I have my own Catholic beliefs, how I live my life. I don’t govern as a Catholic. I don’t legislate as a Catholic.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, issued a statement saying, in part"

"This radical expansion of abortion on demand through birth is a tragedy to be mourned, not a victory to be celebrated.

Furthermore, the World Trade Center is a powerful symbol of American resilience and unity following one of the most terrible acts of violence against innocent people in our nation’s history. Victims of that terrorist attack include unborn children and their mothers who are remembered at the 9-11 memorial. Using this landmark to cheer a sweeping assault on the lives of the most vulnerable is wrong and divisive. We grieve for the thousands of innocent unborn girls and boys of New York who will perish as a result of Cuomo’s extreme agenda, who are forgotten by so many of those in power." 6

Erika Christensen, a New York state abortion rights advocate, found out during the third trimester of her pregnancy that her fetus would be unable to breath after birth, and would live only minutes after birth before asphyxiating. She could not obtain an abortion in New York and had to go to Colorado where a late abortion is legal. She said:

"The way we understand life, the way we reckon with our own morals and belief system, we did not want that outcome -- for a baby to be born just to suffer for a few short moments before death. That did not sound like life to us. It did not sound like peace to us. It’s not for everyone. 5

Referring to the New York law, she said:

It’s for people after 24 weeks who find themselves with either bad pregnancy indications for the fetus or threats to their own health." 5

The law contains only four significant changes from the previous NY law that had been in place since 1970.

  • A woman can now obtain an abortion if:
    • Her health is in danger from the pregnancy, or

    • If the fetus cannot survive birth.

  • The new law was moved from New York's criminal code and is now part of the health code.

  • It allows trained nurse practitioners, physician assistants and licensed midwives to perform abortions.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Roe v. Wade," History, at: https://www.history.com/
  2. "Governor Cuomo Signs Legislation Protecting Women's Reproductive Rights," New York State, at: https://www.governor.ny.gov/
  3. Amy Russo, "Andrew Cuomo Signs Abortion Bill Into Law, Codifying Roe v. Wade," Huffington Post, 2019-JAN-23, at: https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/
  4. Mike Pence, "Life is Under Attack," National Review, 2019-JAN-31, at: https://www.nationalreview.com/
  5. "A New York Law Has Catapulted Later Abortion Back Into the Political Spotlight. Here's What the Legislation Actually Does," Time Magazine, 2019-FEB-01, at: http://time.com/
  6. "Shame: Cuomo orders One World Trade Center Lit Pink to Celebrate Abortion Extremism," Susan B. Anthony List, 2019-JAN-23, at: https://www.sba-list.org/
  7. Calvin Freiburger, "Pregnant woman murdered in New York; Cuomo’s abortion law says her baby isn’t a victim," Life Site News, 2019-FEB-05, at: https://www.lifesitenews.com/

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Copyright Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Originally posted on: 2019-FEB-03
Most recent update: 2019-FEB-06
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