The Abortion Expansion Bill

Published on January 14th, 2013

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Memorandum of Opposition

Re:      A.8070 (Titus) Governor’s Program Bill #9, “The Womens Equality Act”

The above-referenced legislation was released by the Governor on June 4, 2013 and introduced in the Assembly yesterday. Within the package of ten policy objectives is an unnecessary and harmful expansion of abortion in New York State. Part J of A.8070 would accomplish the very same goals as the separately introduced “Reproductive Health Act” (S.438) but with fewer words and greater deception.  This renders the entire act unacceptable, and we strongly urge you to reject it.

Part J of A.8070 would embed the US Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade into New York statute, freezing New York law in 1973. This would repeal New York’s current law which allows abortion through 24 weeks of pregnancy (Article 125 Penal Law), but outlaws abortion after that unless necessary to save a woman’s life. The Governor’s bill would insert a broad health exception, interpreted by the courts not to mean serious physical health impairment, but rather, to include age, economic, social or other emotional factors. It is an exception that will permit unlimited late-term abortion on demand in New York State.

Recent changes to this legislation do nothing to alter the dangerous substance of the bill. A reference to the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act is meaningless, since no state law can conflict with a federal law under the U.S. Constitution Supremacy Clause. The amendment to include a 24-week viability line is hollow as well, as the bill continues to add the “anything goes” health exception, legalizing abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy for virtually any reason.

To suggest that this bill simply “codifies federal law” is disingenuous and misleading. It does not. One need only look to Pennsylvania to see that late-term abortion bans such as New York’s current law can be enforced when authorities choose to enforce them. There, in addition to murder and manslaughter, Dr. Kermit Gosnell was recently convicted of 21 counts of illegal abortion for performing abortion after the 24-week limit. This legislation would, in essence, make what is illegal in Pennsylvania, legal in New York. It would make New York a safe haven for late-term abortionists like Gosnell, encouraging them to set up clinics here, without fear of prosecution, to prey upon vulnerable women and children. This invites mistreatment and injustice against women, and is contrary to the stated intent of the Women’s Equality Act.

The bill would further endanger the lives of women by allowing non-physicians to perform abortions. The repeal of Penal Law Section 125.05(3) within Part J of this bill would remove New York’s current requirement that only a “duly licensed physician” may perform an abortion. A.8070 does not state who would be permitted to perform the procedure, but instead references the Education Law, which gives the State Health Department authority to define “scope of practice” for health professionals. This cleverly-disguised provision would give the Health Department unlimited and unreviewable authority to determine who could perform abortions in New York. Such a dangerous and extreme change clearly puts women’s health at risk, and mirrors a national abortion strategy to permit non-doctors to perform abortions due to the declining number of physicians willing to do so.

Such sweeping changes to New York’s abortion laws are completely unnecessary and defy common sense. New York State remains the abortion capital of the nation with the highest abortion rate of any state. New York City’s abortion rate remains at 40%, with some geographic regions within the city at 60%. The reality is, sadly, that no woman is without ample opportunity for an abortion in New York State.

Rather than voting on a bill that will increase the tragedy of abortion for both women and children, we urge policy makers to look at constructive ways to reduce abortion and truly make abortion “rare.” We strongly urge you to reject A.8070 because the abortion provision within it poisons all the progress that could be made for women in New York State through enactment of the other nine points.

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