A Curious Charge
Published on December 2nd, 2011
By Kathleen M. Gallagher
Yesterday the NYPD announced that a 20-year-old woman had been charged with “self-abortion,” a rare charge in the state of New York. The arrest was made after the body of an unborn child was discovered in the trash near a Manhattan apartment building. The arrest was possible because under New York’s Penal Law, abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy is prohibited unless it is necessary to save a woman’s life.
I suspect that the charge will be dropped or dismissed. Despite what the Penal Law actually says on the books, the law is unenforceable under the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton decisions of 1973. There the High Court ruled that any abortion, at any time during pregnancy is allowable, as long as it is for a “health” reason, be it physical health, emotional health, economic health or social health.
Still, it’s a curious charge. NARAL Pro-choice New York commented that the charge was “deeply troubling,” and added that “police have taken what should be a medical and public health matter and turned it into a criminal case.” Ooooohhhhh, now I get it. For years we’ve been hearing that the so-called “Reproductive Health Act” – i.e. the extreme abortion bill — is necessary to move abortion policies from the criminal code into the public health law where they belong. Looks like advocates will use this case to make their case.
But I think NARAL’s words can be used against them. Their position – that late-term abortions for any reason should be allowable without any consequences — is radical and extreme and out of step with mainstream New Yorkers. Late-term abortions should be banned, as our law intended.