Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Reproductive Health Act (RHA) has continued to gain negative national press due to its callous disregard for the health of women and the lives of the unborn. The fact that the RHA stripped all abortion-related crimes from the criminal code has drawn special attention.
In Queens, prosecutors recently withdrew a charge of second-degree abortion in their case against Anthony Hobson. Hobson has been accused of stabbing Jennifer Irigoyen to death; Irigoyen was five months pregnant at the time of the attack. While Hobson still faces a murder charge in connection with Irigoyen’s death, the RHA makes it impossible to charge him for the death of Irigoyen’s unborn baby.
Prior to the RHA vote, New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms released an open letter to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie (D-Bronx) raising the following concern:
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.
Unfortunately, that warning fell on deaf ears.
In a recent column, Chris Churchill of the Albany Times Union pointed out that because of the RHA, there is now “no penalty in New York for the killing of an unborn child that the mother fully intends to deliver.” Churchill expands on the problem as follows:
[The RHA] means a domestic abuser can successfully end a pregnancy and face no criminal charge other than, if it applies, assault on the woman. In New York law, the life of the fetus [is] not just without humanity, but [without] any value whatsoever.
That certainly makes New York an outlier. Forty-six states offer special protection for pregnant mothers or their unborn children and many, including deep-blue California, allow a manslaughter charge when a fetus is killed without a mother’s consent.
As Churchill notes, State Senate Republicans have introduced a bill that would re-establish a criminal charge specifically relating to attacks on pregnant women. The Liv Act (Bill S.2408-Young) is named for Liv Abreu, a military veteran from the Bronx who was stabbed by her boyfriend six times while she was pregnant. While Abreu survived the attack, her unborn child did not. The Liv Act “would make an attack on a pregnant woman a class D felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison, even if the fetus was unharmed. The charge would apply only if the attacker knew the woman was pregnant.”
Given that the Liv Act explicitly excludes abortion providers from its provisions, pro-choice Members of the Legislature should have no objection to it. Furthermore, if they truly are pro-choice, they should support legislation that protects a woman’s right to choose to carry her pregnancy to term. Accordingly, NYCF calls upon the Legislature and the Governor to pass the Liv Act as soon as possible.