On Jan. 22, 2019, the New York State Legislature passed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s long-sought Reproductive Health Act (RHA), and the Governor signed it into law.
In his typically heavy-handed style, the Governor ordered that the World Trade Center spire, the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, and other state landmarks be lit in pink in celebration.
Since Jan. 22, the Governor has made an uncomfortable discovery: Many, many people — both here in New York and across the nation — are not celebrating the RHA along with him.
In fact, they are outraged. Outraged by the repeal of two laws requiring that viable babies born alive after late-term abortions be provided with medical care. Outraged that violent attacks on pregnant women that harm their unborn babies can no longer be prosecuted as crimes against the babies. Outraged at the prospect of medical personnel other than physicians performing abortions on women and girls in the State of New York. Outraged at the RHA’s clear purpose: To safeguard the practice of late-term abortion against any potential attempt to curtail it.
Clearly stung by the firestorm of national opposition to the RHA, Gov. Cuomo has made ongoing efforts to defend the new law. Because many provisions of the RHA are indefensible, the Governor has resorted to misdirection.
As his father did before him, Gov. Cuomo has repeatedly asserted that his Roman Catholicism is separate from his governance in regard to the issue of abortion. This is a red herring. The arguments made against the RHA are not based upon any particular religious faith, but upon concerns for the health and safety of women and children.
In a recent New York Times op-ed, Gov. Cuomo trotted out the argument that the RHA “merely [codifies] existing federal law and firmly established practices.” Here, the Governor gets points for consistency, but not for accuracy. Nothing in federal law or court decisions requires that non- physicians be allowed to perform abortions; nothing in federal law makes it illegal to prosecute violent criminals for their crimes against unborn babies; nothing in federal law requires that states allow the ghastly practice of abandoning babies that are born alive as a result of late-term abortions. The facts do not match the Governor’s characterization.
Gov. Cuomo also asserts that the RHA does not allow third-trimester abortions for any reason at all. But federal court decisions on abortion have interpreted broad health exceptions like the one contained in the RHA to allow late-term abortion for reasons like emotional or economic health. And the Guttmacher Institute—a pro-choice research organization—found in 2013 that most women seeking late abortions do not do so because of life-endangering medical problems or fetal anomalies.
The RHA is known as an abortion expansion law for a reason. Rather than pretending that he is being unfairly attacked because of the RHA, Gov. Cuomo should take heed to the criticism he has received, acknowledge the deep flaws in the new law, and work to correct them.
Jason J. McGuire is chairman of the Livingston County Conservative Party.