What Does the NY Law Really Say?

There has been lots of conversation in the last few weeks about the Reproductive Health Act, passed by the NY legislature and signed by the governor. But really, what is it all about?

The law means several things will change in NY quickly. “It allows late-term abortions under limited circumstances,” says USA Today. Those limited circumstances, though, are a huge part of the debate. It allows abortions AFTER 24 weeks (recall that is 6 months into a pregnancy), if it seems necessary for the health of the mother.

That’s where this gets interesting. While many people would agree that if the mother’s physical health were in jeopardy, as in a life-threatening situation, abortion might be considered, that’s not the whole context of this law. If a woman felt, at 6 months, that the idea of having a child is overwhelming, she can then abort under the provision of concern for her mental health. So are lawmakers REALLY saying that a baby who could live with a bit of initial assistance (and there are loads of people lining up to foster or adopt these children), the woman could THEN choose to abort her baby? The answer is a resounding YES!

The “health of the mother” is a term that can mean just about anything, unfortunately. The NY law does not define “health.” A paper published in 2013 by Diana Foster and Katrina Kimport on women who got late term abortions for reasons other than a danger to their lives or health or a fetal anomaly cite interesting causes. They described five “profiles” of women in the study: “They were raising children alone, were depressed or using illicit substances, were in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence, had trouble deciding and then had access problems, or were young and [experiencing their first pregnancy].”

Is that really enough reason to end a life?

The RHA (Reproductive Health Act) also repealed part of the law that said that after 12 weeks abortions be performed in a hospital, and that an additional physician be present for abortions after 20 weeks to care for “any live birth that is the result of abortion,” and that such babies be provided “immediate legal protection under the laws of the state of NY.”

According to a spokesman for the senator who sponsored the new law, “modern abortion techniques do not result in live birth; however, in the great unlikelihood that a baby was born alive, the medical provider and team of medical support staff would provide all necessary medical care…” Quite right – the reason it’s extremely difficult for a baby at 24 weeks to live through the procedure is because the procedure involves stopping the baby’s heart and then removing the baby, either surgically, or through actual labor and delivery, which can take days in this case.

Are there situations in which a baby can survive in the 20-26 weeks range? Our friends at Wikipedia say 20 to 35 percent of babies born at 23 weeks of gestation survive, while 50 to 70 percent of babies born at 24 to 25 weeks, and more than 90 percent born at 26 to 27 weeks, survive.

Because a great amount of polarization exists around this issue, my goal is to provide some clarity. If you have any questions about this issue and what it might mean for you, please contact me at 336.629.9988. I’d love to chat.

Caralynn Vaughn,

Executive Director

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