Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

NY Passes Law to Protect Access to Abortion Even if Roe is Overturned

New York Abortion Measure: State Moves to Protect Access to Abortion Even if Roe v. Wade is Overturned

On the 46th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, New York state passed a law to protect women's access to abortion if the historic case is overturned.

 
"Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman's right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion. With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo after signing New York's Reproductive Health Act on Tuesday night.
 
 
Not only will the law preserve access to abortions, it also removes abortion from the state's criminal code. This would protect doctors or medical professionals who perform abortions from criminal prosecution. The law also now allows medical professionals who are not doctors to perform abortions in New York.
 
 
"The old law had criminal penalties. It was written that the doctor or professional could be held criminally liable," Cuomo said during an interview on WNYC Wednesday.
 
The bill allows women to get abortions after 24 weeks if their life or health is threatened by the pregnancy in addition to permitting women to have an abortion at any time if the fetus is not viable, according to syracuse.com.

The law also regulates abortion under public health law, rather than criminal law, and allows licensed nurse practitioners, physician assistants and licensed midwives to conduct abortions, syracuse.com reported

 

Tuesday marked the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and a new milestone for New York women. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the Reproductive Health Act into law after it passed both chambers of the state legislature earlier in the day. The bill updates New York’s abortion law, which predates Roe and regulates abortion in the state’s criminal code. “It’s bittersweet. There is a bitterness because we shouldn’t be here in the first place,” Cuomo said, according to the Albany Times-Union. “We should not have a federal government that is trying to roll back women’s rights … This administration (of President Donald Trump) defies American evolution.”

 

The RHA takes abortion out of the criminal code; the state will now regulate it as a matter of public health. It also expands the pool of medical professionals who are authorized to perform abortions and permits abortions after 24 weeks when the fetus is not viable or a woman’s health is at risk. Previously, women who needed later-term abortions to end nonviable pregnancies were forced to travel far outside the state — a financial and psychological burden. Separate from the RHA, Cuomo has pledged to amend the state constitution to include an affirmative recognition of the right to abortion, though that process will be a lengthy one. As Syracuse.com reported earlier this month, the state legislature has to approve the amendment, which would then go to voters for a referendum.

This is interesting put in historical context, as New York's criminalization of abortion passed in the mid-19th century was one of the leading restrictive laws in the country and one of the most studied.  See Tracy A. Thomas, Misappropriating Women's History in the Law and Politics of Abortion, 36 Seattle L. J. 1 (2012) (including sources cited therein).

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/gender_law/2019/01/ny-passes-law-to-protect-access-to-abortion-even-if-roe-is-overturned.html

Abortion, Constitutional, Healthcare, Legislation | Permalink

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