New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has reawakened the abortion debate with the sweeping Reproductive Health Act, lending momentum to similar bills in other states — and igniting a backlash from the pro-life movement.
Legislation in New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia to loosen abortion restrictions are advancing as Democrats take advantage of their state legislative gains to “codify” the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, citing fears about a looming threat from a judicial branch increasingly being shaped by President Trump.
The New York bill became a perfect example: Senate Republicans had for years held off aggressive pro-choice legislation, but after they lost the majority in November, Democrats swooped in with warnings that Roe’s days were numbered.
“In the face of a federal government intent on rolling back Roe v. Wade and women’s reproductive rights, I promised that we would pass this critical legislation within the first 30 days of the new session — and we got it done,” Mr. Cuomo said in his Jan. 22 signing statement.
The bill, which clears the path for abortions up to 40 weeks, was cheered by Planned Parenthood and the pro-choice movement — One World Trade Center was lit pink afterward to celebrate — even as the outcry from abortion opponents continues to escalate.
Catholic leaders have sparred over whether Mr. Cuomo should be excommunicated. The New York Post ran a front-page op-ed Tuesday by Cardinal Timothy Dolan headlined: “Canon Fire: Why are gov and Dems alienating Catholic voters?”
A White House petition asking New York to overturn the abortion law has received more than 250,000 signatures — more than double the required 100,000 — in five days.
Pro-life advocates, citing a Marist Study released this month showing 75 percent of U.S. adults oppose abortion after the first three months of pregnancy, warned that Democrats have overplayed their hand by pushing bills that go beyond what polls show the public supports.
“Democrat politicians have made abortion on demand a priority,” said LiveAction’s Lila Rose. “While the pro-abortion zealots in New York have won this battle, they will ultimately lose the war on abortion.”
The New York bill declares that abortion is a “fundamental right;” removes language from the penal code involving homicide charges for the unborn after 24 weeks gestation, and allows non-physicians, including physicians assistants, midwives and nurse practitioners, to perform abortions.
Much of the debate over the law has centered on whether it allows abortions up to 40 weeks. The language says procedures after 24 weeks may be performed if necessary to “protect the patient’s life or health,” a definition pro-life advocates describe as so vague as to include virtually anything related to the woman’s physical or emotional well-being.
That point was underscored Tuesday when Virginia state Del. Kathy Tran told a subcommittee that her bill, called the Repeal Act, would allow physicians to approve abortions through the third trimester, or 40 weeks, over concerns about the woman’s mental or physical health.
Republican state Del. Todd Gilbert asked if an abortion could be performed with the doctor’s OK after the pregnant woman had gone into labor.
“My bill would allow that, yes,” she said.
Dr. Omar L. Hamada, a Nashville obstetrician, appeared last week on FoxNews after declaring that there was “no fetal or maternal condition that requires third-trimester abortion. Not one.”
The uproar comes in spite of what the conservative Media Research Center described as a news blackout from the major networks — ABC, CBS and NBC — as well as cable networks CNN and MSNBC, saying none has given “a second of airtime” in the week since the New York bill was signed.
“It’s been a full week since the state of New York legalized late-term abortions, yet none of the major national TV networks has bothered to mention the story,” said the MRC’s Bill D’Agostino. “This deafening silence is in stark contrast to the alarmist coverage seen when a state passes legislation that the media see as curtailing ‘abortion rights.’”
Meanwhile, in Rhode Island, the House Judiciary Committee began debate Tuesday on the Reproductive Healthcare Act, another bill aimed at codifying Roe v. Wade.
“Rhode Island must affirm, once and for all, that a women’s right to make decisions about her own body is protected in our state, before the federal government stops doing that job for us,” said the sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Gayle Goldin, in a statement.
Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo indicated in her State of the State speech that she would support such legislation, saying, “Let’s make this the year we codify women’s access to reproductive health here in Rhode Island.”
Pro-life advocate Nichole Rowley responded by launching a “Me, Still Me” campaign, urging foes of the legislation to send Ms. Raimondo photos of their ultrasounds along with current shots.
Other states have sought to remove pre-Roe bans on abortion, including Massachusetts, which passed last year legislation eliminating a law that dated back to 1845.
In New Mexico, the state House committee approved Saturday a bill to repeal a 50-year-old, anti-abortion law after Democrats cited concerns that the measure would kick in if Roe were overturned.
“It is time to remove this archaic law from New Mexico’s books,” said Democratic state Rep. Joanne Ferrary in the Las Cruces Sun News. “With the threat of a Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe, we need to pass this bill to protect health care providers and keep abortion safe and legal.”
A Vermont bill introduced last week would recognize abortion as a “fundamental human right,” prompting a protest Saturday that drew hundreds to the state capitol in Montpelier.
“The Vermont bills have got us pretty steamed up,” Mary Beerworth, executive director of Vermont Right to Life, told the Burlington Free Press.