Breaking Down the New York Abortion Law


Left: Grace Wilson, Right: Wikimedia Commons

On the left: A picture taken at the recent March for Life 2019 in Washington, D.C. On the right: A 2008 demonstration for the pro-choice movement

Jordan Barish, Senior Staff Writer

Abortion has always been a controversial topic, and to this day every piece of legislature that involves abortion can be met with extreme reactions from both sides. On Tuesday, January 22nd, the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the State of New York passed “New York’s Reproductive Health Act.” While some view this act as a large victory for a woman’s right to her own body, supporters of the pro-life movement have voiced their concerns at the potential consequences of the Act’s passing. Let’s break it down:

The main idea of this bill is stated in Section 2 which says that abortions can legally be performed by a licensed practitioner within 24 weeks since conception, if the fetus isn’t viable, or any time in which the pregnancy poses a threat the the patient’s (woman’s) health. Another important part of this bill to note is that it removes abortion from New York’s criminal code. This means that practitioners who perform abortions cannot be persecuted for doing so.

What proponents of the bill are celebrating:

  • With the Supreme Court now having a conservative majority, the passing of this bill would protect a woman’s right to an abortion even if Roe v. Wade was overturned.
  • Women who discover that their child will not survive childbirth now have the option to abort the pregnancy (at any time). This option could be seen as more favorable than having to carry the child to full term and have it be stillborn.  
  • If a woman’s health is at great risk due to the pregnancy and the process of childbirth threatens her life, she will now have the ability to abort the pregnancy (at any time) in order to better ensure her survival.

What opponents of the bill are upset with:

  • The law now allows for any medical professional to perform an abortion, not just doctors. These professionals include midwives, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants (they typically have less training and do not need a doctorate).
  • Removing abortion from the criminal code means that, given the scenario that a woman is assaulted and it causes her to lose her unborn baby, the assaulter would not face criminal punishment for the death of the fetus.
  • As with most laws involving abortion, many religious people and organizations are lamenting this bill, with New York’s Catholic Bishops criticizing the law’s lack of respect for human life.

The controversy over this bill likely won’t die down anytime soon, due to what some call the “radical” nature of it. However, it is important to note that late-term abortions are very rare. In 2015, only 1.3% of abortions happened at or after 21 weeks (it is important to note that this rate was calculated with data from all 50 states).  The full Senate Bill can be found in its entirety here.