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  • Writer's pictureDaibik Chakraborty

Reproductive Healthcare Act in the State of New York

Updated: Aug 24, 2020


In 1973, the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade set a precedent that it was unconstitutional to restrict or criminalize abortions. Three years prior to the case, New York passed legislation to legalize abortions. However, the nearly 50 year old legislation does not match some of the terms and precedents set by Roe v. Wade. Primarily, the half-a-century year old legislation does not have protections for mothers whose health would be at risk for continuing pregnancy after 24 weeks. In addition, the legislation does not have any provisions set for fetuses that would not function after birth.

On January 22, 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo passed the progressive legislation named “The Reproductive Health Act” to reinforce the provisions of Roe v. Wade in the state of New York.

In an effort to set the New York State budget in 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed to remove any provisions on abortion from the state penal code. A penal code is a set of laws on crimes and their consequent punishments. Removing abortions from the state penal code extends opportunities for abortions that can be performed by health-care practitioners. This includes third trimester abortions if a mother’s health is at risk or if a fetus is viable. In addition, it allows mothers to have legal abortions up until 24 weeks of pregnancy for any cause.

The language “fetus viability” is trigger phrase that removes abortions from the state penal code. As a result, areas where abortions are not necessarily available can now conduct abortions. Non-physicians, such as nurses and physician assistants, are allowed to conduct abortions with proper state licensing and certification.

There is also possibility in the current political climate of the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Because of the conservative majority in the Supreme Court, abortion right activists fear that there is a possibility of Roe being overturned. If it is overturned, states would have the power to legalize or criminalize abortions. New York’s law would give patients full access to abortions despite federal actions, in this case.

Pro-choice community members praise Governor Andrew Cuomo for the passing of this recent legislation. Robin Chappelle Golston, CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts claimed that this legislation protects abortions as a necessary means of healthcare and furthers the status quo away from criminalizing a necessary care. Others state the Reproductive Healthcare Act is necessary in a time when the criminalization of abortions seems to be imminent.

Governor Andrew Cuomo faces heavy opposition from pro-life community members, namely the Catholic Church. Cuomo, a practicing Catholic, is mounted with criticism from Bishops and leaders of the Catholic Church who are calling for his excommunication from the Church. They find the legislation to be inhumane and and inconsistent to what the Church preaches. In addition, this legislation has caused pro-life advocates to further push President Donald Trump to defund (take away federal funding) from Planned Parenthood and any other institutions that provides abortion services.


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