Earlier this month, the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) was introduced in the New York state legislature. This piece of legislation would make New York’s abortion laws among the most permissive in the country. It would legalize abortion in New York throughout all nine months of pregnancy. It would also repeal the current state laws that only allow licensed physicians to perform abortions. Furthermore, the bill also removes protections for accidental live births and disallows criminal changes for illegal abortions. This piece of legislation has the enthusiastic support of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the plan is to have the state legislature vote on the bill on January 22nd – the 46th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.
The fact that Democrats in the New York state legislature have chosen to make this bill their top legislative priority is evidence of both their pro-abortion extremism and their blind loyalty to Planned Parenthood. After all, there is plenty of evidence that New York women have little trouble accessing abortions. Data from the Guttmacher Institute indicates that there are 218 abortion facilities in New York, one of the highest figures in the country. Furthermore, according to Guttmacher, New York’s abortion rate is 29.6 per thousand women of childbearing age. This is more than any other state in the country and more than double the national average.
This piece of legislation also nicely demonstrates how abortion politics have changed for the worse in the Empire state during the past 50 years. With the exception of the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, the legalization of abortion in New York was the most important event in the history of abortion politics in the United States. While some other states legalized abortion prior to 1970, these states made it difficult for out-of-state women to obtain legal abortions. However, when New York legalized abortion in 1970, there was no residency requirement. Consequently, the law expanded abortion access in both New York and in nearby states. In fact, research has shown that abortion rates in nearby states sharply increased after 1970 since many women crossed state lines to obtain legal abortions in New York.
Supporters of legal abortion knew that the legalization of abortion in New York State would increase abortion totals in the United States. They were also aware that their experience would be scrutinized by other states that were considering legalizing abortion. As such, they did not want reports of botched abortions or abortion-related injuries to hamper the prospect of legalizing abortion elsewhere. So safeguards were included in the 1970 legislation — safeguards which would be either weakened or eliminated by the Reproductive Health Act.
First, the 1970 law legalized abortion only through the first 24 weeks of pregnancy — unless the abortion was necessary to save the woman’s life. In contrast, the Reproductive Health Act would officially change New York law to make abortion legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy. This is despite the fact that a substantial body of academic research indicates that late-term abortions pose significant physical and mental health risks to women. Second, New York’s 1970 abortion law clearly specifies that only physicians can perform abortions in New York State. The Reproductive Health Act would allow nurse practitioners and midwives to perform abortions. This could have an adverse effect on the health of women, particularly women who suffer complications during the abortion procedure.
Even though the New York Catholic Conference is pessimistic that they can stop the bill, they should still put up a fight. There is a considerable body of polling data which shows that even in a blue state – many of the RHA’s provisions are unpopular with a vast majority of New York residents. A series of polls taken just five years ago by the Chiaroscuro Foundation are instructive. For instance, 75 percent oppose changing the law so that someone other than a doctor can perform surgical abortions. Eighty percent oppose unlimited abortion through the ninth month of pregnancy. If nothing else a concerted campaign to stop the Reproductive Health Act would educate New York voters and help expose the pro-abortion extremism of Andrew Cuomo, Hillary Clinton, and other Democratic political figures in New York.
Michael J. New is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America and an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_J_New.