New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Tuesday night signed the state’s Reproductive Health Act. The Act preserves the right to an abortion if federal law changes. It also removes abortion from the state’s criminal code.
Research consistently finds broad support for at least some access to abortion. A PerryUndem survey released this month found that more Republicans want to keep Roe vs. Wade (49%) than want it overturned (48%). The same survey found that 73% of voters support Roe. Despite this broad support for abortion rights, states continue to pass sweeping abortion restrictions. Some have even moved to criminalize some forms of abortion.
New York’s Reproductive Health Act
New York’s Reproductive Health Act has already been the subject of scare tactics by the far right, who assert that it legalizes abortion up to labor and childbirth. Instead, the Act preserves the legal right to abortion up to 24 weeks. Thereafter, a woman can only seek an abortion to save her life or if the fetus is non-viable. Without this legislative change, an assault on Roe v. Wade could remove access to abortion in New York. It would also force a woman to die rather than receive an abortion if the fetus died and the pregnancy threatened her life after 24 weeks.
The Act also removes abortion from certain sections of the criminal code. This would prevent the state from prosecuting women who seek abortions. Though Donald Trump has asserted that women who seek abortions should be punished, many anti-choice activists insist that the woman is a victim who should face no penalty. Their opposition to this law suggests they may actually support penalties for abortion if given the chance to impose them.
New State Abortion Restrictions
Last week alone, Republicans in Colorado, Indiana, and Texas proposed total abortion bans.
In Colorado, abortion would be classified as murder, and punishable by the death penalty or life in prison.
Indiana’s new abortion restriction also criminalizes abortion, but with an even more onerous twist: the bill is so broad that a miscarriage could be considered abortion, and therefore murder. Because the law labels embryos human beings, it might also lead to the ban of in vitro fertilization (IVF).
A similar bill in Texas would criminalize abortion as homicide, and propose anyone involved in the procedure—doctors, nurses, the pregnant person, and possibly other parties. The bill contains no exception for rape, incest, or severe fetal anomalies. The bill’s sponsor, Tony Tinderholdt, introduced similar legislation in 2017. Back then, he asserted that his bill would “force” women to be “more personally responsible,” and that the legislation would lower the pregnancy rate “when they know that there’s repercussions.”
Do Voters Take Seriously the Threat of an End to Abortion Rights?
The number of state-level abortion restrictions has steadily risen for years. In 2017, the latest year for which data is available, 19 states adopted 63 new abortion restrictions—the largest number of new restrictions passed since 2013. Despite this, many voters don’t take seriously the possibility of an end to abortion rights. Just 42% of respondents to the PerryUndem survey knew that the right to abortion is at risk.
Sixty-three percent of survey respondents said they want their state to protect abortion, as New York just did.