What You Need to Know About New York's "Late-Term Abortion" Law

On January 22, the New York State Senate passed the Reproductive Health Act, which allows women to receive an abortion after 24 weeks if her life or health is at risk.

A previous New York law allowed for abortions after 24 weeks only if the woman’s life was at risk, but the RHA now permits doctors to decide if a continued pregnancy will also threaten the woman’s health. If they determine that her health is being threatened, then abortion may be performed. 

News of this law spread fast and the true meaning behind the legislation was often misinterpreted, even by our President.

During his State of the Union address, President Trump claimed that New York lawmakers cheered for "legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother's womb moments before birth.” He also called for Congress to completely ban “late-term abortions.”

The Facts

First, Trump uses the term “late-term abortion” which is medically inaccurate. When referring to pregnancies, late-term refers to a mother being past her due date, or more specifically, 41 weeks past gestation. Abortions do not occur during this time.

According to Dr. Jennifer Conti, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, the term “late-term abortion” was created by anti-abortion groups to “confuse, mislead and increase stigma.”

Second, this law does not allow unborn children to simply be “ripped from the mother’s womb” as Trump claims. A mother can not walk into a New York abortion clinic and request an abortion simply because she does not want her child.

The RHA is not an evil law aiming to kill unborn children. New York is taking steps to make sure the mother’s life and health are protected, not just the fetus’. It is also introducing several other changes to reproductive laws in the state, but these other changes are not getting mentioned.

Under the RHA, a woman is now able to seek an abortion at any time if the fetus is not viable and will not be able to survive outside the womb. Previous New York law only allowed this up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

It also allows licensed midwives, licensed nurse practitioners and physician assistants to provide abortions. This will increase abortion access in rural areas of the state where women often have to wait several weeks to be seen by a physician, or may not be seen at all. 

If they’re not able to be seen by a physician, women may attempt to induce an abortion by taking action themselves in unsafe ways. According to the World Health Organization, up to 13.2 percent of maternal deaths, each year can be attributed to unsafe abortions. By providing access to abortions in rural areas, the RHA is aiming to save women’s lives. 

Despite what you may be hearing from our lawmakers, this law was not made to make it easier for mothers to kill their unborn children. It was made to protect both the mother and the fetus under extreme circumstances, as well as giving more women access to safe abortions.