Virginia, Rhode Island and Massachusetts legislators are all rushing to follow New York’s passage of the Reproductive Health Act by proposing similar bills — ones that would legalize abortion right up to birth. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D) expressed his support of the Virginia abortion proposal and unpacked exactly what it would allow.
He said, “So in this particular example if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen, the infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”
The New York legislators who cheered as Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the Reproductive Health Act may soon find themselves explaining why they’re letting babies die. So, could politicians in other states who are attempting to follow suit. They will certainly be asked why they felt it was proper to refuse to protect the rights of viable infants, as these bills all legalize abortion into the 40th week of pregnancy.
In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the state has a “legitimate interest in protecting the potentiality of human life.” It said further that this interest became “compelling” at the point of viability (about 28 weeks in 1973).
Today, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, infants as young as 22 weeks can survive outside the womb if given appropriate support. Yet, the newly minted New York law and its copy-cat progeny allow abortion for any reason at all up to 24 weeks. They also allow the use of any technique, including partial-birth abortion.
In effect, these states are surrendering the right to protect the lives of babies already weighing several pounds, babies old enough to feel pain and live outside the womb with temporary medical assistance. They are even making it perfectly legal to withhold resuscitation from a baby who is born alive, as Governor Northam makes clear.
After 24 weeks of gestation, the New York law allows abortions up to the moment of birth if mother’s health is at risk. The New York law does not specify what this means, but the Massachusetts bill does. It says the choice to abort can be made in “light of all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the person’s age – relevant to the well-being of the patient.”
And the Virginia bill’s sponsor, Democrat Delegate Kathy Tran said her (now-failed) bill would make it legal to abort a baby whose mother is already in full labor, a baby who is only hours or minutes from birth.
This is shockingly far outside mainstream opinion on the issue of abortion. A full 60 percent of Americans think abortion should only be allowed in the first trimester. And only 13 percent support abortion in the third trimester, when the baby is viable. One can only imagine what polling results would be if Americans were asked, "Should living infants be refused resuscitation if that is the choice of the mother?
Legislators attempting to pass these radical abortion bills may also expect tough questions about why the proposed laws eliminate common sense regulations around the procedure which are in place to protect the mother’s health. Roe, of course, recognized this governmental role, “a State may properly assert important interests in safeguarding health [and] in maintaining medical standards.” Under New York’s new law, however any licensed health care practitioner, not just doctors, can now perform abortions.
No one would think of going to a nurse practitioner for a tonsillectomy, but in New York an abortion can now be done by nurses and technicians without the benefit of a medical degree. This hands-off approach will only increase the risk of more abortionists operating like Kermit Gosnell did.
Politicians who support these extreme abortion laws may score enthusiastic support from their closest political allies and funders. But the vast majority of American voters are repulsed by the nitty-gritty details of what no-holds-barred abortion looks like in action.
Grazie Pozo Christie M.D. is a policy advisor for The Catholic Association and Andrea Picciotti-Bayer is legal advisor for The Catholic Association Foundation.