Calling it a “victory for all New Yorkers,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a law to codify a woman’s right to abortion under state law and provide greater access to abortion across the state on Tuesday evening, Jan. 22.
The measure, known as the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), was approved in the State Senate by a 38-24 vote, and in the State Assembly by a 92-47 vote.
Cuomo, a Catholic, had promised to sign the measure within the first 30 days of the new legislative session and did so on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that granted a constitutional right to abortion. The Democratic-controlled New York State Legislature pushed for this bill out of concern that Roe v. Wade could be overturned by the current Supreme Court.
“With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body,” the governor said in a statement posted to his gubernatorial website.
The measure eliminates current restrictions on late-term abortion, including into the ninth month, and moves abortion from criminal law to a public health law, eliminating protections for pregnant women and their unborn children, including those born alive in the process of an abortion.
The bill also allows non-doctors, including nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants and other health professions, to perform abortions; and removes criminal penalties for illegal abortions, such as when someone purposely targets a mother or her unborn child in an act of violence.
In tweets sent after he signed bill, Gov. Cuomo called the measure “a victory for all New Yorkers” and said the spire of One World Trade Center was lit in pink following the bill’s passage “to celebrate.”
Passage of the law was a hard loss for pro-life New Yorkers who have been actively fighting this measure with rallies, petitions and efforts to educate lawmakers since it was first introduced by former Governor Eliot Spitzer in 2007.
The New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the bishops of the state, has long opposed the RHA. Following the passage of the bill, the state Catholic conference issued the following statement, in part:
“Today, New York State has added a sad chapter to this already solemn date of January 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. With the legislature’s passage, and Governor Cuomo’s signing of the Reproductive Health Act, our beloved state has become a more dangerous one for women and their unborn babies.”
The NYS Catholic Conference further thanked those pro-lifers who fought “to stop this horrendous policy,” and invited prayers for the “conversion of heart for those who celebrate this tragic moment in the history of our state.
“And we pray in a special way for the lives that will be lost, and for the women of our state who are made less safe under this law.”