New York’s Reproductive Health Act (RHA) will make access to abortion a “fundamental right,” while opening the law to include late-term abortions.
State Governor Andrew Cuomo has vowed that the measure will pass within the first 30 days of the legislative session and has received backing from former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who declared: “There’s no time to wait” to codify Roe v. Wade into New York law.
A bipartisan state legislature has kept abortion legislation at bay for years but now that Democrats have achieved a majority in the state Senate, there is nothing to stop New York lawmakers from expanding the reach of abortion up to the day of a child’s birth.
The Reproductive Health Act (Senate Bill S2796) permits abortion “within 24 weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or at any time when necessary to protect a patient’s life or health” (emphasis added).
Critics have noted that the Act’s language allowing abortion at any time a patient’s health needs to be protected is purposefully vague so as to permit the broadest interpretation.
The Act also redefines “person” as “a human being who has been born and is alive,” eliminating the possibility of recognizing the personhood of an unborn child. During her presidential campaign in 2016, Hillary Clinton stated that “the unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.”
Pro-life advocates have expressed concern that the radical new language of the RHA will introduce legal problems for those defending the rights of the unborn.
“‘A fundamental right’ is a right that could supersede everything, even the right of conscience and religious freedom,” said Renée Morgiewicz, coordinator of Respect Life Ministry for the Diocese of Albany.
Kathleen Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference, said that enshrining abortion into law as a “fundamental right” could be used to block religious organizations from advocating for life or prevent doctors from abstaining from performing abortions on religious or moral grounds.
“It foresees a time in New York where it’s a crime to be pro-life,” Gallagher said.
The RHA repeals current state regulations that only permit licensed physicians to perform abortions. It also repeals the current stipulation restricting third-trimester abortions to cases where the mother’s life is in danger.
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