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The New York Times and Abortion Today


You can’t expect the New York Times to cover abortion stories fairly, but it shouldn’t be too much to ask them to read legislation and report it correctly. Once again, though, they fail even that basic test of journalism.

To their credit, the Times reported today on Live Action’s latest video exposé of the ugly practices of an abortion clinic in the Bronx. And ugly it was — callous, heartless, and an open admission that they would murder live-born babies. But of course, that’s not much different from what abortion is all the time, every day. It’s remarkable that the Times has finally taken some notice of that fact.

Unfortunately, the Times then went on to give a distorted and bizarre description of the Reproductive Health Act, the bill being pressed by Governor Cuomo and the abortion industry here in New York. The governor has been keeping the details of his bill under wrap, but there is an actual bill already in the legislature, and no matter which one finally moves forward, this description by the Times is far off the mark:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, has thrown his support behind legislation that will guarantee a woman’s right to an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy, if her health is in danger or if the fetus is not viable. The current law permits abortion after 24 weeks only if a woman’s life is in danger, although it is not enforced because federal court rulings have allowed less restrictive late-term abortions.

That description implies that RHA is only going to make minor adjustments to current New York law, to bring it into line with Supreme Court precedents. But RHA goes far beyond that. It would revolutionize our law, establishing abortion as a preeminent right that will be virtually immune from regulation, and enshrining New York as a wide-open territory for the abortion industry to do whatever it wants. It could be called the “Welcome Kermit Gosnell Act.”

RHA would define abortion as an unqualified “fundamental right,” placing it on the same legal plane as the right to vote or political speech. It would require that all regulations of abortion stand up to the highest standard of review by courts (“compelling state interest/strict scrutiny”). This means that all the reasonable regulations of abortion we see in other states — parental involvement in abortion decisions by minors, full informed consent (including sonograms), limits on late-term abortions, bans on sex-selective abortions, etc. — would be virtually impossible in New York.

It would also make abortion even more unsafe than it already is. Currently, New York law permits only doctors to perform abortions. RHA would instead permit abortions to be done by any “qualified, licensed health care practitioner acting within the scope of his or her practice.” This term isn’t defined in the RHA, but it could include any health worker that the New York State Health Department feels like certifying, without any further consultation with the legislature or the people of our state. In other words, if the abortion industry wants non-doctors to be able to do invasive surgery– regardless of the health risks to women – then RHA is the perfect bill for them.

Current New York law also requires late-term abortions to be done only in hospitals. This is a commonsense safety requirement, since late-term abortions are inherently more risky for the mother. The requirement is also necessary to ensure that a baby born alive after an abortion has access to medical assistance to sustain her life — which is already required in a provision of New York law that is obviously being flouted in that Bronx clinic, and, most likely, in others as well.

RHA would eliminate this hospital requirement and allow post-viability abortions to be performed on an outpatient basis in offices that lack the resources to address any threats to the woman’s life, and the specialized medical staff and equipment to provide life support to any baby who survives the abortion. It would also redefine “viability” in a way that would eviscerate the current legal protection for born-alive babies — leaving it entirely up to the discretion of the abortionist whether to provide any care. Anyone who watches the Live Action video, or who has followed the Gosnell trial, knows that this leads directly to infanticide.

Here’s what’s most frightening about RHA. New York already has a “wild west” atmosphere when it comes to abortion. But this bill sends a signal to the New York abortion industry that they are a special, protected class, and that they don’t have to worry about oversight, or scrutiny, or consequences. 

Nobody can name a single abortion clinic in New York that has been closed or cited for health violations in years. Freedom of Information requests have been made to state and city governments asking for information about inspections, but there has been no answer. So, we have a city that spends millions inspecting restaurants and sellers of large carbonated beverages, but can’t seem to find any abortion clinics to inspect.

If that’s not chilling enough, consider this. At a public hearing a few years ago, Christine Quinn, who is the speaker of the City Council and front-runner for mayor, lauded a witness as a “hero” for all that she did for “women’s health” and “reproductive rights.” That witness was Dr. Emily, the owner of the clinic visited by Live Action. Just think about that — a late-term abortionist who is a “hero” to our most powerful politicians, and whose ordinary practice is to kill live-born infants. 

The grand jury in the Gosnell case pointed out that a “pro-choice” political atmosphere in Pennsylvania discouraged regulation and oversight of the abortion industry, allowing that clinic to do its business for years under the radar. Passing RHA in New York will only encourage even more of that kind of laissez-faire attitude in New York.

No matter how the Times tries to downplay it, if RHA is passed, there is nothing that stands between New York and Kermit Gosnell — or those like him, who are already here, operating in secret.

— Edward T. Mechmann is assistant director of the Family Life/Respect Life Office in the Archdiocese of New York.


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