New York Protects Roe v. Wade
Tuesday, January 22nd marked the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The landmark decision allowed access to comprehensive reproductive health care through the legalization of abortion. Throughout the years, the historic decision has come under attack by state laws that limit or restrict a woman’s ability to choose. This year, New York passed its own law that affects Roe v. Wade: The Reproductive Health Act.
New York’s Reproductive Health Act’s goal is to ensure access to abortion even if the federal government or the Supreme Court of the United States limits or repeals Roe v. Wade. The law removes abortion from New York’s criminal code. The New York criminal code regarding abortion was enacted in 1970, three years before Roe v. Wade. The code recognized abortion as a medical procedure but kept late-term abortions, those past 24 weeks illegal. The 1970 law made late-term abortions a felony and a doctor who performed the procedure would be arrested. The 2019 law abolished the 1970 law thereby protecting doctors from being prosecuted. The Act also protects physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and midwives from criminal prosecution if they perform an abortion. The Reproductive Health Act supersedes the limits placed on abortion in Roe v. Wade by allowing abortions to be performed after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable or to protect the health of the woman.
Critics, including the New York State Catholic Coalition and New York State Right To Life, object the law because it rejects the sanctity of the fetus. Furthermore, they reject allowing physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and midwives to perform an abortion. Opponents to the law argue that Roe v. Wade clearly states licensed physicians may perform an abortion. Another objection to the law is the extension of abortions past 24 weeks. Critics point to the general belief held by those in the medical community that fetal viability can occur anywhere from 24 to 28 weeks after conception.
Advocates support the Reproductive Health Act because it protects women’s right to choose. The right to choose grants a woman the chance to make decisions regarding her body without fear of criminal charges. The right to choose is more than a choice about being a mother, it is the ability to make a choice based on what the woman believes is right for her life. The ability to control health care decisions retains a woman’s autonomy, but it also recognizes reproductive health as a fundamental right.
New York's law acts as a lightning rod because it draws attention.The support and controversy that surrounds it will remain as long as the law remains. There will be court cases challenging the law, which may end up on the Supreme Court’s docket. I believe New York, by decriminalizing abortion, has become a beacon for others to follow. Women should not be relegated to back alleys and traveling abortion “doctors.” Women should not become criminals by choosing to access reproductive health care. The right to choose is a fundamental part of America’s claim of being the land of the free. Women will never be free until they have full control and autonomy over their bodies.