New York Passes Disturbing Expansion of Abortion Law

On the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new abortion law called the Reproductive Health Act (RHA). The RHA specifies that every individual has a "fundamental right" to an abortion and expands abortion protections in the state.  

The RHA allows abortion (1) if it is performed earlier than 24 weeks of pregnancy; (2) in an "absence of fetal viability"; or (3) if it is necessary to "protect the patient's life or health." This means that abortion is allowed without restriction during the first two trimesters. For third trimester abortions, decisions concerning fetal viability and protection of the life and health of the mother are to be made according to "the practitioner's reasonable and good faith professional judgment based on the facts of the patient's case."  

The exception for health of the mother is not defined and can be interpreted to cover psychological, mental, and emotional health of the mother, as determined by the abortion provider. So, while the law does not technically allow abortion for any reason in the third trimester, in reality the health exception is broad enough to cover almost any late-term abortion in the state.

The law also specifies that any "health care practitioner licensed, certified, or authorized" under New York's medical licensing laws can perform an abortion according to his or her professional judgment. This means that non-physicians (such as licensed nurse practitioners and physician assistants) can perform abortions.  

In addition, the RHA amends the definition of "homicide" in the New York penal code to remove conduct causing the death of an unborn child when the mother has been pregnant for more than 24 weeks. This means that only persons "born and alive" can be considered the victim of a homicide. All other references to abortion were also eliminated from the New York penal code.  

The RHA also removed a section of New York's public health law that required a second physician to be in attendance for all abortions performed after 20 weeks to provide "immediate care for any live birth" that was the result of an abortion. The now-repealed section also provided for "immediate legal protection" for children born alive and required medical records be kept of the efforts to care for such child. 

In a statement issued before final passage of the RHA, the Bishops of New York State expressed their "profound sadness" over the abortion expansion. "We mourn the unborn infants who will lose their lives, and the many mothers and fathers who will suffer remorse and heartbreak as a result."  

On the heels of New York passing the RHA, the Virginia General Assembly defeated a similar abortion expansion proposal. HB 2491 would have eliminated the requirement that second trimester abortions be performed in a hospital; eliminated numerous processes required before an abortion, such as conducting an ultrasound; eliminated the requirement that two other physicians certify that a third trimester abortion is necessary to save the mother's life or prevent impairment of her physical or mental health; and eliminated regulations establishing minimum health and safety standards for abortion facilities. 

Archbishop Carlson released a statement in response to the bills this afternoon:

"The recent actions by some state governments to advocate for the murder of children in the womb is representative of the loss of conscience by those leaders in government who are responsible for passing this legislation, no matter their faith. What is at stake is the ability to legally act to defend the innocents who are unable to defend themselves. The Archdiocese of St. Louis condemns these recent actions and appeals to those leaders who are in good conscience to act in defense of the unborn."

Also in response to the Virginia and New York bills, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, KS and Chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities issued a statement today. Missouri Speaker of the House, Elijah Haahr indicated this week that he was referring eight pro-life bills to committee. Stating that Missouri was "not New York or Virginia", Haahr stated that the bills would create "new protections for our most innocent."
February 4, 2019 - 8:26am

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