The 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Jan. 22 coincided with New York State passing the Reproductive Health Act, which protects women’s access to abortion should the historic case ever be overturned.
Conservatives and pro-life supporters have rallied against the act, calling it “evil” and “child sacrifice.” The act is anything but and policy-makers should spread it nationwide.
While the law protects access to abortions by completely decriminalizing them, the portion of the law that allows late-term abortion under specific conditions has people up in arms.
What opponents fail to realize is that this is not “legalized murder.” The law clearly states late-term abortion—after 24 weeks—can only be performed if the fetus is not viable or if it is necessary to protect the life of the mother, according to CNN.
"It's about the health and safety of the mother and it's always been the point where the conservatives wave the flag, they want to roll back Roe v. Wade—this is not gray here it's black and white," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, according to CNN.
Now, some argue that “protecting the life of the mother” is subjective and open to interpretation, especially in the legal sense. Perhaps there is room for more specificity in the wording, but that can be amended at any time. Pregnant women in danger of dying during delivery don’t have the luxury of time.
The act at its most basic level of analysis is understandably alarming. Legalizing abortion of a fully formed fetus appears to be dangerously toeing the line between the right to choose and murder.
Nevertheless, it’s critical to remember that no woman is carrying a child and suffering through the physical tolls of pregnancy just to get an abortion at the end of their term; it just doesn’t make sense.
Despite some public backlash, the act has also been met with abundant and vivacious support from professionals, such as the New York Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and the League of Women Voters of New York State. “The Reproductive Health Act recognizes reproductive health care as a fundamental right. It takes abortion out of the criminal code and puts it where women's health belongs—in the public health law. It recognizes the range of medical professionals that women can turn to, expanding access to early care,” the NYCLU said, according to CNN.
Still, there is room for improvement in the law, even with all the good it will do. As State Assembly Rep. Nicole Malliotakis points out, decriminalizing abortion would prevent prosecution of an assailant in the event of a fetus dying as a result of an assault to a woman, as reported by CNN. "Being assaulted and losing your baby is not a woman's choice," Malliotakis said.
With Roe v. Wade consistently on trial at the United States Supreme Court, it’s up to individual states to take action that protects women’s reproductive rights, which is exactly what New York has done.
“At least 424 anti-abortion bills have been passed at the state level since 2010, according to the Guttmacher Institute … As a result, 43 percent of all reproductive-age women—29 million people—now live in areas that are hostile to abortion rights, including seven states that each have just one abortion clinic left,” according to The New York Times.
This is a crucial moment in our country’s history; all eyes are on New York. With this new law, we have done our best to do right by women everywhere. Expanding the Reproductive Health Act nationwide would only further this progress.