BLOG4 Facts behind New York’s Abortion Law, and How Your State Compares

By Sarah Kramer Posted on: | February 21, 2019

By now, you’ve likely heard of New York’s recently passed abortion law, the Reproductive Health Act.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been grieved by headlines like:

HORROR: New York Set to Legalize Abortion Up To Birth

Disgusting: New York not only legalized late-term abortions, but also celebrated like it won the Super Bowl

Calling Evil Good: Lawmakers in New York Celebrate Expansive Abortion Law

But you might be left wondering exactly what the law says. Let’s break it down.

1. It effectively legalized abortion through all three trimesters of a pregnancy, up until birth.

The language of New York’s abortion law is actually a bit misleading. Here’s how it reads:

A health care practitioner licensed, certified, or authorized under title eight of the education law, acting within his or her lawful scope of practice, may perform an abortion when, according to the practitioner’s reasonable and good faith professional judgment based on the facts of the patient’s case: the patient is within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.

Now, you might be thinking: “What’s all this fuss about third-trimester abortions? It says right there that abortions are only permissible up until 24 weeks – not up until birth.”

The key word here, however, is “health.” Nowhere in New York’s law does it define what it means by “health.” But in the Roe v. Wade companion case, Doe v. Bolton, the U.S. Supreme Court defined it this way: “medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age – relevant to the wellbeing of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.” That’s an incredibly broad definition of health. And you’d be hard pressed to find a reason that falls outside of those parameters – which means that abortion can be performed after 24 weeks for virtually any reason.

But wait, there’s more.

The law also moved laws on abortion from the criminal code to the health code. That means there are no longer any criminal penalties for abortions after 24 weeks.

This has already played out unfavorably in the courts. Prosecutors were forced to drop charges of second-degree murder against a Queens man who allegedly stabbed his girlfriend to death. She was 14 weeks pregnant. But now, under New York law, killing a preborn baby is no longer criminal, so the prosecutors could no longer pursue those charges.

2. It puts women’s health at even greater risk.

Abortion advocates like to claim that they are in this fight for women’s health. Yet, again and again, we’ve seen the abortion industry fight laws that put in place safety requirements for abortionists and their clinics.

This law in New York is proof of that, too.

As New York Magazine reports, this law would make it easier for non-physicians to perform abortions, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners.

It also repealed former requirements that abortions after 12 weeks be performed in a hospital and that two physicians be present during abortions after 20 weeks.

3. It removes protections from infants born alive after an abortion procedure.

As I briefly mentioned in the last point, New York’s abortion law removed a requirement that another physician be present during an abortion procedure that is performed on a woman who is 20 weeks pregnant or later.

As the now-repealed requirement stated, “a physician other than the physician performing the abortion shall be in attendance to take control of and to provide immediate medical care for any live birth that is the result of the abortion… such child shall be accorded immediate legal protection under the laws of the state of New York.”

Pray tell, why would anyone ever want to repeal that?!

But perhaps it’s not so surprising given the fact that Democrats have once again blocked the Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act from becoming law.

4. It makes it easier for the abortion industry to continue preying on children.

Formerly, it was illegal for anyone to sell contraception to children under 16. The new law, however, repeals this prohibition.

And that is exactly what abortion providers like Planned Parenthood want to see. As former Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Faye Wattleton said: "Sexuality education must be a fundamental part of the school curricula from kindergarten through twelfth grade in every school district in the country ... Easier access to contraception must be another priority access without any barriers."

Yes, Planned Parenthood wants to talk to your children about sex – and not just talk about it, but encourage risky sexual behavior.

So, what’s in it for them? More money.

Over time, Planned Parenthood builds a relationship with students. From there, they encourage sexual activity between minors, selling them contraception. And when contraception fails, Planned Parenthood is there to help them with the “solution” of abortion.

It’s a sickening cycle.

And now in New York, it will be a whole lot easier for abortion providers to do just that.

How Other States Stack Up

You might be surprised to know that for all the (rightful) outrage, New York’s late-term abortion law is not the first of its kind. In fact, New York became the eighth state to legalize abortion up until birth for practically any reason. Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont have similar laws, as does Washington, D.C.

Among those, Vermont’s could probably be considered the most expansive abortion law in the country. It has virtually no limits, taxpayer money funds all or most abortions, and there are no protections in place for pro-life individuals or institutions who object to participating in abortions on religious and moral grounds.

Even advocates for legalized abortion have recoiled from such extreme laws.

Most other states have some limitation on abortion, whether that is a cutoff point when abortions can be performed, a ban on partial-birth abortions, or state-mandated counseling, among other things. (Guttmacher has data on each individual state law, and where each state stands on late-term abortions.)

But as we’ve seen with Virginia, other states are trying to follow in New York’s footsteps.

This only confirms that building a culture of life must be made a priority if we want to escape the shame of being one of only four countries worldwide that allows abortion up to moment of birth, putting us among the likes of Canada, China, and North Korea.

How ADF Is Working to Defend Life

In response to such extreme late-term abortion laws, we’ve seen a wave of pro-life activity. Several states have introduced “heartbeat laws”, for instance, which would outlaw abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

But we’ve also seen that it won’t be an easy fight.

Many of these laws have been challenged. And we’ve also seen increasing challenges to pro-life speech and advocacy.

That’s where Alliance Defending Freedom comes in.

ADF exists to defend those who are defending life. We defend sidewalk counselors, college students, pregnancy centers, and churches who are being forced to abandon their pro-life beliefs and advocacy.

And, praise God, a majority of these cases have ended in victory!

We’ve also been on the frontlines of the movement to defund Planned Parenthood.

Now you can help us continue to turn this momentum into real progress for unborn children and their mothers. It’s critical that ADF has the necessary funding to continue to support pro-life legislation in the coming year, hold abortionists like Planned Parenthood accountable, and provide a strong pro-life defense in courts nationwide—including the United States Supreme Court if necessary.

With God’s blessing and your financial support, we can work together to make 2019 a year that restores a culture of life in America.


Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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