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Understanding New York’s Reproductive Health Act

Let's cut through the conjecture.

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Understanding New York’s Reproductive Health Act

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On January 22, 2019, the New York State Assembly and Senate passed the Reproductive Health Act to expand and reaffirm reproductive rights in New York State.

This bill was lauded as one of the most significant accomplishments of the new Democratic-held majority in Albany and was immediately signed into law by Governor Cuomo with much fanfare, including lighting the Freedom Tower pink.

Freedom Tower Lit Pink

Since the passage of the law, however, there have been some who have misconstrued the scope of the law or twisted it for their own political gain. One person who has definitely twisted the law for his political gain is President Trump, who, during his State of the Union Address, claimed incorrectly that, “The Reproductive Health Act would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.”

This claim about the scope of the bill is categorically false. The New York State law does not allow abortion to be performed without impunity up until the day of birth. Instead, it is a measured and reasonable law that protects the health and safety of women in New York and affirms a woman’s right to make choices about her own reproductive health.

One of the main points of the Reproductive Health Act is to codify Roe v Wade in the New York State Constitution. This means that if the Supreme Court ever overturned the landmark abortion ruling, abortion would still remain legal in the State of New York.

The Reproductive Health Act affirms abortion protections set out in Roe v Wade, which allows abortion to be performed before the end of the 24th week of the pregnancy and allows abortion after that date if necessary to “protect the patient’s life or health.”

Governor Cuomo signing the RHA

The New York State law goes a step further in its protection by allowing abortion after the 24th week if there is an absence of “fetal viability,” or of the ability for the fetus to survive outside the womb.

Clearly, the accusation that the Reproductive Health Act would allow a woman to obtain an abortion up to the day of birth is not true. Abortion after the 24th week can only be allowed if the woman’s health is at risk or if the fetus will not survive.

The hateful rhetoric being peddled by the President and his allies about “butchering babies” is detrimental to women’s health. Other non-medical terms, such as “partial birth abortion” and “late term abortion,” lower the debate around the issue and lead to dangerous stereotypes being pushed on people who are struggling with difficult decisions and devastating loss. If you would like to know the reality of how rare the cases are when a decision is made to perform an abortion after the 24th week, I recommend reading these three articles, which are compelling and emotional in equal measure.

Statistics on how rare it is to have an abortion after 21 weeks.

Another important aspect of the Reproductive Health Act is that it moved language pertaining to abortion out of the state criminal statute and put it instead in the State health code. This in itself sent an important message that abortion relates to healthcare and is not a crime.

Regardless of people’s political beliefs when it comes to abortion, it is vital that they understand the true facts of an issue — as opposed to simply basing their beliefs on conjecture and hearsay. I hope that this article sheds some necessary light on how the new law in New York State expands important rights.

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Understanding New York’s Reproductive Health Act