Earlier today, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms released an open letter to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie on the Reproductive Health Act. In that letter, we request that the legislative leaders reconsider their support for the bill and outline specific concerns with its provisions. In our view, certain aspects of the legislation should be unacceptable to all New Yorkers, regardless of their overall position on abortion.
The text of the letter is as follows:
January 21, 2019
Honorable Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Senate Majority Leader
907 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Honorable Carl E. Heastie
Speaker of the Assembly
932 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Re: Reproductive Health Act (Bill S.240 – Krueger/A.21 – Glick)—Open Letter
Dear Leaders Stewart-Cousins and Heastie:
As you know, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms (NYCF) has opposed the passage of the Reproductive Health Act and similar bills for many years. In anticipation of the anticipated January 22 Senate and Assembly votes on the RHA, we write to call your attention to our objections to this bill once again in the hope that each of you might reconsider your support for its passage.
While we acknowledge our fundamental difference with each of you on abortion, we believe that certain aspects of the RHA are problematic irrespective of one’s overall position on that issue. They include the following:
- Section Three of the RHA would repeal Public Health Law § 4164, which contains important provisions relating to the rights of infants born alive following abortions performed after 20 weeks’ gestation. Public Health Law § 4164(1) provides that for abortions performed after the twentieth week of pregnancy, a second physician “shall be in attendance to take control of and to provide immediate medical care for any live birth that is the result of the abortion.” Also, Public Health Law § 4164(2) mandates that a viable infant born alive following an abortion performed after 20 weeks’ gestation “be accorded immediate legal protection under the laws of the state of New York…” The proposed repeal of this statutory section would withdraw legal protection from such infants, making it legal for them to be denied treatment. NYCF believes that the right of every born-alive infant to receive medical care is an issue that all political parties and all sides of the abortion debate should be able to agree upon. With respect, we call upon you and your colleagues to strike Section Three from this bill.
- Section Five of the RHA would repeal criminal statutes banning forced abortions and assaults upon women with the intent of causing miscarriages. While prosecutors can use other statutes to punish these crimes, the RHA would limit prosecutors’ options. NYCF believes that this aspect of the RHA is a step backward in regard to protecting pregnant women against acts of domestic violence and other violent crimes.
- Section Seven of the RHA would repeal the existing law mandating that abortions be performed only by physicians. This section would allow a health care practitioner “licensed, certified, or authorized under Title Eight of the Education Law, acting within his or her lawful scope of practice, [to] perform an abortion…” We believe it would place women’s health in jeopardy to allow non-physicians to perform abortions. Would the Legislature propose legislation allowing non-physicians to perform any other surgical procedures in New York? If not, why should this procedure be treated differently?
- The RHA contains no conscience protections for institutions or health care professionals whose beliefs do not allow them to participate in abortion. Some prior versions of the bill did include such protections, and we would respectfully ask that they be re-inserted into this year’s RHA.
It is not too late to reconsider your support for this bill, nor is it too late to amend the bill to remove provisions that are objectionable to New Yorkers with diverse perspectives on abortion. We implore you to do so.
Thank you for your consideration.
Jason J. McGuire
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms
cc: Members of the New York State Legislature (via e-mail)