Mike Kueber's Blog

February 20, 2013

New York follows a separate path on abortion

Filed under: Law/justice — Mike Kueber @ 7:43 pm

There have been lots of reports lately about the successes of the anti-abortion movement and the defensive reactions of pro-choice people.  The anti-abortion people been able to enact laws that not only make it difficult for a woman to have an abortion, but also make it difficult for an abortion clinic to stay in operation.  There is only a single abortion clinic in several states, including my home state of North Dakota, and if proposed legislation is successful, even those single clinics might have to close.


An article in today’s NY Times, however, reports that its home state, New York, is going against the flow.  The governor of NY, Andrew Cuomo, is proposing legislation that will grant to a woman the right to an abortion of a viable fetus even if the woman’s life is not in jeopardy, provided that her health is at risk. 


According to the article, the federal courts already protect a woman’s right to a late-term abortion whenever her health is at risk, but the NY governor wants to make this protection a part of state law as a precaution should the federal courts ever back off their current position.


Because I thought Roe v. Wade (1973) had held that states could prohibit late-term abortions, I decided to find out what federal decisions the article was referring to.  What I found was that Roe v. Wade actually allowed late-term abortions when necessary “to preserve the life or health of the mother.”


Another Supreme Court decision, Doe v. Dalton, was rendered the same day as Roe v. Wade, and Doe elaborated on the meaning of the “health of the mother”:


  • Whether, in the words of the Georgia statute, “an abortion is necessary” is a professional judgment that the Georgia physician will be called upon to make routinely. We agree with the District Court, 319 F. Supp., at 1058, that the medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age – relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.”


Obviously, this sort of verbiage means essentially, “abortion on demand.”  And NY Governor Cuomo wants to preserve this status even if the U.S. Supreme Court comes to its senses. 


There is a history in NY for this extreme position.  Prior to Roe v. Wade, only four states allowed abortion on demand – NY, WA, HI, and AK – so we should not be surprised that NY abortion clinics will be open for business even if Roe v. Wade or Doe v. Dalton is modified.



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