NY Governor Signs Controversial Reproductive Health Act


Photo Credit: NY Daily News

Shaelyn Drost, Managing Editor

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law Tuesday protecting women’s access to abortions at any time during pregnancy.

Cuomo signed the New York’s Reproductive Health Act on the 46th anniversary of the Roe V. Wade decision, safeguarding the right to abortion in the event of the case being overturned.

“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,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo after signing the bill into law.

The Supreme Court case of Roe v. Wade in 1973 was a landmark decision ruling state legislature banning abortion as unconstitutional. Thus, abortion became legal in many states and the feminist movement as a whole strengthened tremendously.

The Reproductive Health Act not only conserves women’s access to abortions but removes abortion from the state’s criminal code. This thereby protects medical professionals who perform abortions from criminal penalties. Under the Roe v. Wade decision, it was required that only licensed physicians be allowed to perform an abortion. However, the RHA permits medical professionals who are not doctors to perform abortion in the state of New York, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and midwives.

Yet this removal of abortion from the penal code does not only apply to medical professionals. Under the old law, if a fetus died as a result of assault on a woman the malefactor would be charged with the assault of the women as well as the death of the fetus, but under the RHA, only the assault on the woman would be criminally penalized, regardless of whether she wanted to keep the child.

“Being assaulted and losing your baby is not a woman’s choice,” State Assembly Rep. Nicole Malliotakis argued.

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement, “While the administration in Washington continues its assault on women’s reproductive rights, the Assembly Majority remains dedicated to fighting for a woman’s right to choose. The bills we passed today ensure New Yorkers can control their family planning decisions, have access to the reproductive healthcare they need and will not be discriminated against for their choices. With our new partners in the Senate, we have finally seen this legislation pass both houses and signed into law on the anniversary of the historic Roe v. Wade decision.”

However, the most controversial aspect of this law pertains to the section of the law addressing late-term abortions. State law previously only allowed abortions after 24 weeks if the mother’s life was in jeopardy, but under this new law abortion can be performed after 24 weeks of pregnancy when necessary to protect the health of the mother, though the law does not specify the form of health or the extent of it.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, New York State Right to Life slammed RHA as “an extreme bill” while vowing 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.”

However many supporters claim that both the Roe v. Wade decision and New York’s Reproductive Health Act is about much more than just abortion, but about the demarginalization of all women in America.