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The abortion law fix we needed: The Reproductive Health Act is hardly the radical claimed

The first few weeks of session in Albany have been historic, with long-overdue bills moving our state forward on sexual and reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights, voter enfranchisement, and support for those who have survived sexual abuse during childhood.

This is a time to be celebrating — not attacking our leadership in Albany, who reflect the values that New Yorkers hold dear. Yet Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spewed a lot of misinformation about the much-needed Reproductive Health Act, so I want to make a few things clear.

A medical right, not a crime. (Darren McGee / Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)


JAN 30, 2019 AT 6:40 PM

Full story:

First, New Yorkers, including the state’s Catholics — I was raised Catholic myself — support access to safe, legal abortion. Half of Catholics nationwide say that abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to the Pew Research Center.

Second, the claim that the RHA allows abortion up to the moment of birth for any reason is a blatant lie. The overwhelming majority of abortions happen before 24 weeks of pregnancy (90% occur in the first 12 weeks). And since 1973, a pregnant person has had the right to have an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy if their health or life is at risk, or their pregnancy is not viable.

The RHA simply enshrines this protection in state law. The absurd claim made by Dolan and others that the new law in effect legalizes infanticide is meant to malign both patients and their health care providers; it stigmatizes necessary health care for pregnant individuals who are dealing with emergent health issues.

What the RHA mainly does is put the power back where it belongs: in the hands of medical providers and their patients to make the best decisions for their health and lives. It also clarifies that trained health-care providers acting within their scope of practice can provide abortion care, expanding much-needed access across the state.

New York’s abortion law desperately needed to be updated. New York added abortion to the state’s criminal homicide code in 1828. This had never been changed.

Let that sink in. While New York was one of the first states to legalize abortion in 1970, this 191-year-old law was never updated, not even after Roe v. Wade in 1973. The RHA recognizes that abortion is health care, not a crime.

Prior to the RHA, many New Yorkers have had to leave the state to end pregnancies. For low-income people who may not be able to afford time off from work or the expense to travel, they have had to forgo needed abortion care. With passage of the RHA, we are one step closer to a New York where everyone can access the health care they need and deserve.

Last year’s vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court put people’s right to safe, legal abortion and access to health care through the Affordable Care Act at risk. As a progressive leader, New York must be a sanctuary for others who are unable to access abortion care in their own states.

Across New York City and the country, we at Planned Parenthood will continue to fight to ensure that abortion remains safe and legal. We believe deeply in the right of all people — no matter who they are, where they live, or what they earn — to make their own personal decisions about their bodies, their families, and their paths in life, without political interference.

This year, we are finally well on our way to becoming a state where those rights are protected are honored. That’s something to celebrate, not decry.

McQuade is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City.

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