New York law: The Death Star

Abortion law ‘devastating’

The Death Star has been launched.

Despite furious opposition by New York’s Catholic bishops and other pro-life groups, that state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, signed into law the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) on Jan. 22. The legislation, which effectively removes restrictions on all abortions in New York, was enacted on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

In an open letter to Cuomo Jan. 19, posted on his diocesan newspaper’s website, “The Evangelist,” Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany argued that the law’s passage would devastate the dignity of human life and “rupture the communion between the Catholic faith and those who support the RHA.”

“Mr. Cuomo, do not build this Death Star,” pleaded Bishop Scharfenberger.

In a statement issued Jan. 9, the New York State Catholic Conference (NYSCC), which represents the state’s bishops in public policy issues, decried the bill’s being fast-tracked for passage and for its “extreme expansion of current state abortion policy.” It outlined some of the new law’s new regulations.

  • Expands late-term abortions. “The primary objective of this legislation is to expand late-term abortion,” said the statement. Previously, abortions in New York were legal through 24 weeks of pregnancy, except to save a woman’s life. This “health” exception was changed to include age, economic, social and emotional factors. “As a result, this bill will allow abortion for any of these reasons at any time during a pregnancy, including into the ninth month.”
  • Empowers non-doctors to perform abortions. The previous law required licensed physicians to perform abortions. The new law allows “any health care practitioner” such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants and midwives, to perform the abortion. “We believe that empowering lesser-trained and less-experienced non-physicians to perform abortions is hazardous for women and infants,” the NYSCC statement said.
  • Removes penal law protections. By moving abortion from a felony to a misdemeanor, it “removes accountability for those who would harm unborn children outside the context of medical termination of pregnancy.” The NYSCC described a recent incident in which a man was arrested for attempting to cause a woman’s miscarriage by pushing his fist into her stomach. He was charged with reckless endangerment as well as abortion in the second degree, a felony. “That charge would be removed from our statutes under this bill.”

The new law could also infringe on the conscience rights of health care providers who refuse to participate in abortions. “We are concerned that doctors and other health providers may be compelled to perform abortions or risk losing their license to practice,” the statement said.

Bishop Scharfenberger echoed the concerns of many people in asking how the new law can be viewed as progress when it moves a society that sought to make abortion rare to one that expands it at every opportunity.

“How is it progress to ignore the harm that this will do, not only to innocent infants, born and unborn, but to their mothers?” he asked. “How is it really ‘pro-choice’ when a law, which claims to guarantee choice, moves to expand only one option for women?”

In 2017, the Guttmacher Institute reported that the abortion rate had dropped to its lowest level since Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide. Passage of New York’s RHA means that these numbers may again spiral upward. The Death Star, indeed, has been launched.