On Tuesday, January 22, 2019, New York State secured our access to safe and legal abortion with the Reproductive Health Act (RHA). It is not surprising that those opposed to abortion -- including President Trump -- have chosen to spread misinformation to distract New Yorkers from the truth: we are protecting safe, legal abortion in our state.
WHAT TO KNOW?
The RHA brings New York State abortion law in line with Roe v. Wade, which safeguards women by allowing them to access constitutionally-protected care later in pregnancy when an individual’s health is at risk or a fetus is not viable.
To be clear, there is no such thing as abortion during labor and delivery. Any suggestions otherwise are not only completely false, but they are downright offensive to women who face pregnancy complications and the providers who care for them. It’s important to remember that the people spreading this misinformation have one motive in mind-- to ban safe, legal abortion in this country.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Can a woman get an abortion if she’s in labor?
No — that’s simply not how medical care works. The way anti-abortion politicians and groups are characterizing safe, legal abortion is completely inaccurate and misleading. If a woman is in labor, she couldn’t and wouldn’t have an abortion. That suggestion is not only misleading, it’s callous.
Q: When in pregnancy do most women get abortions?
Nearly 99% of abortions in the U.S. occur before 21 weeks. According to the CDC, 91.1% of abortions occur in the first trimester, 7.6% occur in the second trimester. Only 1.4% American women have abortions after the 20th week, and even fewer do so in the third trimester, or once the fetus is viable.
Q: Can a woman get an abortion for mental health reasons?
Every person’s situation is different and many times there are no simple answers. We should trust medical professionals to make the decisions about what’s a risk to someone’s mental and physical health — not politicians. Physicians must provide their best clinical judgment and determine whether a woman’s life or health is at stake.
Q: When does life begin?
Questions about when life begins are personal, and it’s just not that simple. For some it’s based on faith, for others it’s a matter of science or medicine. One thing we do know is that politicians aren’t the experts--and it’s not an issue that the American people want to be legislated.
Q: Should we be more specific on when abortion should be supported or opposed?
It’s just not that simple. We don’t know a woman’s specific situation--we are not in her shoes. Ultimately, decisions about whether to choose adoption, end a pregnancy, or raise a child must be left to a woman, her family and her faith, with the counsel of her medical provider.
Q: When is viability and who determines it?
The precise date of viability is inexact and may vary with each pregnancy. In a healthy pregnancy, viability is generally reached around 24 weeks. Some pregnancies — no matter how many weeks — will never be viable. It’s important for a woman to have medically accurate information from a licensed medical professional about her health and the health of her pregnancy in these tragic situations-- and not shaming, judgment and government interference. (The Supreme Court has explained that viability “may differ with each pregnancy” and that it “is reached when, in the judgment of the attending physician on the particular facts of the case before him, there is a reasonable likelihood of the fetus' sustained survival outside the womb.”)
Q: Does current law allow a woman to get an abortion up until the end of pregnancy?
The Supreme Court was clear in Roe v. Wade that women need access to abortion post-viability if their health or life is endangered. States cannot ban abortion at any point in pregnancy when it is necessary to protect the woman’s life or health.
Q: What does the New York bill do?
In New York, the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) codified protections for safe, legal abortion into state law. The change takes abortion out of the criminal code and affirms abortion is health care. It also ensures that people who face a risk to their health or learn their pregnancy is no longer viable are still able to access abortion safely and legally after 24 weeks. These are situations where women and doctors need every option possible, not restrictions by politicians who would tie doctors’ hands and shame women.
HELPFUL ARTICLES TO SHARE
REAL STORIES ABOUT LATER ABORTION
Open Letter: We Are Later Abortion Patients
Politifact: No, New York Abortion Law Doesn’t Let Mother’s Abort Babies Before They Would Be Born
Elle: Outlawing Late Abortion Seemed Like Such a Reasonable Idea Until I Needed One Myself
ABOUT THE BILL
The Cut: A False War Over Late Abortion
TIME: A New York Law Has Catapulted Later Abortion Back Into the Political Spotlight. Here's What the Legislation Actually Does
Times Herald Record: Newly signed Albany law reignites battle over abortion rights
MEDICAL VOICES WEIGHING IN
Vox: Dear Donald Trump: I'm an OB-GYN. There are no 9-month abortions.
Dr. Jen Gunter: Abortions at or after 24 weeks are sometimes needed medically. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong.
Rewire: Conservatives Are Perpetuating Dangerous Tropes About Patients Who Need Later Abortions
Quartz: The arguments against “late-term abortion” are based on mistrust of women
Salon: Festival of phony outrage: No, conservatives don't actually care about late-term abortion
Harper's Bazaar: How to Respond to Anti-Abortion Activists Who Use Debunked Science
- One in 4 women will have an abortion by age 45: https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-states
- A first-trimester abortion is one of the safest medical procedures and carries minimal risk: Major complications (those requiring hospital care, surgery or transfusion) occur at a rate of less than 0.5%. https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-states
- Nearly half (45%) of all pregnancies among U.S. women in 2011 were unintended, and about four in 10 of these were terminated by abortion. Nineteen percent of pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) in 2014 ended were unintended, and about four in 10 of these were terminated by abortion. https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-united-states
Polling shows that the vast majority of people support access to safe, legal abortion and oppose restrictions on abortion access. It is appalling in 2019 that anti-choice advocates are still trying to shame women about their reproductive health care. Whether it is access to abortion or contraception, we have seen opposition to common-sense legislation that keeps women in control of their own health and lives.
The fact is, the RHA was an important and long-overdue step forward to protect our almost 50-year-old access to safe and legal abortion. With a federal government dedicated to attacking reproductive health care and Roe v. Wade in jeopardy --the same national protections that have governed our access to abortion care since 1973-- we could not wait any longer to adopt Roe’s protections in our state law.