Here's The Truth About The New York State Reproductive Act

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
Alex Wong / Getty Images (left photo); Drew Angerer / Getty Images (right photo)

I didn’t know this just a few months ago, but my home state of New York had not passed a women’s reproductive rights act in over 50 years. This meant that New York’s abortion laws were not even up to date with the rights afforded by Roe v. Wade. And in a political climate where women’s reproductive rights are very much at risk, it is more necessary than ever to protect these rights on a state level should Roe v. Wade ever get overturned.

That is why I was very glad to hear New York state governor Andrew Cuomo announce the passage of The Reproductive Health Act this past Tuesday, January 22nd.

As Governor Cuomo explains, the main goal of the act is to ensure that New Yorkers will be guaranteed the rights laid out in current federal laws no matter what the Supreme Court may decide in the future.

“In the face of a federal government intent on rolling back Roe v. Wade and women’s reproductive rights, I promised that we would enact this critical legislation within the first 30 days of the new session — and we got it done,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Now, as you can imagine, parts of this law are getting abortion activists and others quite upset. This happens anytime a new abortion law is passed, especially one that guarantees more autonomy and protection to women and their families (imagine that).

As with everything, there are a million mistruths and outright lies floating about concerning this new law, so let me break things down for you. (And see those little hyperlinks lit up in bright colors? Those are links to original, reputable sources so you can see where my data is coming from.)

Here’s what The New York State Reproductive Act of 2019 guarantees:

1. It changes the section of law dealing with abortion from penal code to health code.

2. It allows midwives and physician assistants to perform certain abortions.

3. It guarantees women a right to an abortion up to the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, as codified in Roe v. Wade. Again, this is no different than what has been guaranteed under federal law for 46 years.

4. It allows exceptions for abortions after 24 weeks, if the women’s life or health is at risk or if the fetus is not viable and cannot survive outside the of womb.

As you might have guessed, it’s really #4 that has got everyone in a tizzy. “Ok, you are allowing mothers to just go ahead and rip their full-term babies straight out of their bodies.” (I’m not just making this up; I’m paraphrasing how our current president characterized later-term abortions during the 2016 election.)

First of all, note the part about why the law is offering the option of abortion after 24 weeks gestation: If the mother’s life or health is at risk or if the fetus cannot survive outside of the womb. Note also, that the New York law, last updated in 1970, only made exceptions when a mother’s life was at risk and did not allow women to terminate their pregnancies if they found out after 24 weeks that their babies could not survive outside the womb.

This meant that mothers, already wrecked with grief about losing an unviable baby, had to travel outside of New York in order to get an abortion, thereby delaying probably the worst moment of their lives by days or weeks. THIS WAS NOT OKAY.

And while we are looking at facts rather than suppositions and conspiracy theories, consider this: According to the CDC, only 1.3% of abortions actually take place after 21 weeks gestation, with 91% taking place within the first 13 weeks.

No one is running out to get an abortion at the last possible minute. This law is not going to encourage that. That is not how this works. In fact, it will likely make it so that women can get the care they need sooner rather than later.

What’s more, in almost all cases of later abortion, the deciding factor has to do with a mother’s health or life, or her fetus’s viability.

“Abortions that occur at this stage in pregnancy are often the result of tragic diagnoses and are exactly the scenarios wherein patients need their doctors, and not obstructive politicians,” Dr Jennifer Conti, clinical assistant professor at Stanford University, told The Guardian.

“Asking a woman to carry a fatally flawed pregnancy to term is, at the very least, heartbreaking,” she added. “I’ve often heard women say that they chose to end such pregnancies because of unselfish reasons: they couldn’t bear the thought of putting their fetus through even more pain or suffering.”

The bottom line is this: Laws like this one are passed in order to protect mothers and their families. They are passed to save lives, and bring dignity to families at their most heartbreaking, devastating moments.

And truly, unless you have been there trying to make a brutal decision such as the ones some of these mothers have to make – it is really not up to you to say a damn word about it. The best thing you can do is educate yourself on the issues at hand, open your heart and mind, and show a little compassion.

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