'Evil' or 'groundbreaking'?: A look at NY's new abortion law
Women demonstrate during a pro-choice rally, Tuesday, July 10, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Daniel Otis, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Tuesday, January 29, 2019 2:01PM EST
New York State has enacted new legislation meant to protect abortion rights against any rollbacks from the U.S. Supreme Court or the Trump administration -- and critics are fuming.
“New York abortion law allows for barbaric butchering of the innocent,” a headline in a Jan. 27 opinion piece in The Washington Times read. “New York’s new abortion law is evil codified,” opined an Associated Press columnist today.
The new law, known as the Reproductive Health Act, is meant to safeguard reproductive rights in the Empire State that were enshrined by Roe v. Wade: the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed American women’s constitutional right to access abortion. With the balance of power in the Supreme Court now tipped in favour of conservative judges, following the Oct. 2018 confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, many abortion rights activists now legitimately fear that Roe v. Wade could be overturned or altered.
“The threat to safe, legal abortion in this country is not hypothetical,” Dr. Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a Jan. 22 statement. “(T)here are 15 cases one step away from the Supreme Court, meaning we face a situation where one in three women of reproductive age could be living in states where abortion is criminalized and outlawed.”
Prior to his 2016 election victory, U.S. President Donald Trump declared that he is “pro-life” and promised to stack the Supreme Court with judges that share that stance. During a Sept. interview with Geraldo Rivera, Trump called Roe v. Wade “a controversy that I’m going to leave to the courts.”
THE REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH ACT
The Reproductive Health Act went into effect on Jan. 22 -- the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. For New Yorkers, the law essentially solidifies abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade and other court rulings against any potential Supreme Court or White House actions. It also allows for late-term abortions if a pregnancy is no longer viable or a woman’s health is at risk. A previous state law, passed in 1970, only allowed for abortions after 24 weeks if a woman’s life was in jeopardy.
In a Jan. 22 tweet, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the Reproductive Health Act will protect “women's reproductive rights no matter what the federal government does.”
“This is a victory for all New Yorkers,” Cuomo added.
‘BABIES TO BE SLAUGHTERED’
Backlash from conservatives and the religious right has been vehement.
Writing for The Washington Times, columnist Rebecca Hagelin said, as Cuomo “signed the legislation, Evil cheered what was actually the signing of death warrants for countless babies who can be aborted at any time, for any reason, through the ninth month of pregnancy.” In Hagelin’s opinion piece, she describes abortion as “the great American holocaust,” and claims that the new law would allow “fully developed preborn babies to be slaughtered even on what would be their birth days.”
Such sentiments were echoed in a Jan. 29 column by Associated Press writer Neal Larson, who wrote that, now, “in New York there are no protections for the unborn at any stage before they safely exit the womb.”
“Just passing the law is bad enough, but they didn’t simply pass it. They celebrated it,” Larson wrote. “When the governor of one of our nation’s most prominent and important states celebrates allowing the deliberate death of innocent fully-grown babies, it is heart wrenching.”
Because of New York’s Reproductive Health Act, Larson concluded, “the dystopian hell we’ve been fearing is already here.”
Following the signing of the Reproductive Health Act, Catholic bishops in places such as Tennessee and Texas even called for Cuomo to be excommunicated from the church -- calls that Cuomo dismissed, saying that, despite his Catholic faith, elected leaders cannot legislate religious beliefs.
A statement from New York State’s Catholic bishops further accused Cuomo of making “our beloved state… a more dangerous one for women and their unborn babies.”
“Let us all pray for the conversion of heart for those who celebrate this tragic moment in the history of our state,” they added.
‘WE CHEER THE NEW YORK STATE LEGISLATURE’
Planned Parenthood, a U.S. based reproductive health non-profit, celebrated the passing of the “groundbreaking” Reproductive Health Act in “the face of constant federal attacks and a new anti-Roe v. Wade majority on the Supreme Court.”
The legislation, Planned Parenthood of New York City president and CEO Laura McQuade added, is “historic.”
“With passage of the Reproductive Health Act… New York can finally grow to be a model of what sexual and reproductive health care should be, especially with mounting attacks on our health and rights from Washington,” she said in a statement.
“Even if Roe were someday to be overturned, abortion throughout a woman’s pregnancy would still be legal in New York State,” a statement from New York’s Choices Women’s Medical Center said. “We cheer the New York State Legislature for passing the Reproductive Health Act, and pledge to do our part in keeping abortion safe and accessible.”
With files from The Associated Press