Reproductive Health Act

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Reproductive Health Act
Seal of New York.svg
New York State Legislature
Full nameReproductive Health Act
StatusIn force
IntroducedJanuary 9, 2019
Assembly votedJanuary 22, 2019[1]
Senate votedJanuary 22, 2019[2]
Signed into lawJanuary 22, 2019
Sponsor(s)Deborah J. Glick (Assembly),
Liz Krueger (Senate)
GovernorAndrew Cuomo

The Reproductive Health Act is a New York statute enacted on January 22, 2019, that expanded the legality of abortion and eliminated several restrictions on abortion in the state.

Prior to the act's passage, abortion was illegal after 24 weeks of pregnancy, with limited exceptions. The act legalizes abortion "at any time when necessary to protect a woman's life or health".[3][4] The act allows medical professionals who are not doctors to perform abortions.[5] It also repealed criminal charges for harming unborn children.[6]

The act was proposed in the New York State Legislature in various forms since 2006, but blocked by Senate Republicans. Democrats took over the state Senate in the 2018 elections, and passed the bill 38-24 on January 22, 2019,[2] the 46th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling. The state Assembly passed it 92-47 the same day,[1] and it was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo that evening.[3] Cuomo ordered One World Trade Center and other landmarks to be lit in pink to celebrate the bill's passage.[7][8] The lighting was decried by a New York Daily News columnist as an act of trolling and politicizing the memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks to celebrate the passage of a divisive law.[9]

Supporters argued the bill was needed to codify abortion rights in the state in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned and the issue of abortion legality returns to the states.[3] Supporters also said the bill was needed to take abortion out of the state criminal code and place it in public health law.[5]

Critics argued that the vagueness of the "health" provision effectively legalizes abortion up until the moment of birth.[3][4][5][10] Actor Nick Searcy, who directed the film Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer, and actor Dean Cain, who co-starred in the film, said that the act would make the crimes of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murder for late-term abortion procedures on babies born alive, legal in New York.[11][12]

The bill was also criticized because it removed abortion from the criminal code, with potential consequences for crimes against pregnant women. State Representative Nicole Malliotakis said removing abortion from the criminal code means that if a fetus dies as the result of an assault on a woman, there would be no prosecution.[13] Two legislators who sponsored the act wrote an op-ed arguing that violence resulting in a loss of pregnancy could still be prosecuted as first-degree assault.[14] A Bronx woman named Livia Abreu lost her baby in 2018 after she was stabbed by her ex-boyfriend, Oscar Alvarez; Alvarez was charged with abortion in the first degree in the attack. Abreu argued that the act would exonerate Alvarez of the charges.[6] In February 2019, the Queens district attorney's office dropped a charge of second-degree abortion against a man who murdered his pregnant girlfriend, saying their ability to press the charge was repealed by the Reproductive Health Act.[15]

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