New York Governor: Abortion Is the Greatest Thing EVAH! (UPDATED)
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is widely expected to run for president in 2016, has apparently decided that the road to the White House lies through the most abortion-worshipping wing of the Democratic Party. According to Democrats for Life of America:
Democrats in New York are championing the most sweeping abortion legislation in the nation. Governor Andrew Cuomo added the strong abortion language to a Women’s Equity bill aimed at addressing human trafficking, pay equity for women, and domestic violence.
The abortion language would allow late-term abortions, allow non-doctors to perform abortions, and supersede any reasonable restrictions such as parental notification, in a state that already has one of the highest abortion rates. It is out of touch with the views of most Americans, out of touch with the views of most Democrats, and could hamper real reform for women’s rights.
Now, some might think this just pro-life hyperbole. So I checked out the “Reproductive Health Act,” which has been essentially added to the bill the Dems for Life mention. Here’s what it says (sorry about the all-caps; the New York General Assembly apparently feels the need to shout about everything):
REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH ACT
SECTION 1700. STATEMENT OF POLICY.
1701. AUTHORIZED PERFORMANCE OF ABORTIONS.
1702. STATE REGULATION.
S 1700. STATEMENT OF POLICY. THE LEGISLATURE DECLARES THAT EVERY INDIVIDUAL HAS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT OF PRIVACY WITH RESPECT TO CERTAIN PERSONAL REPRODUCTIVE DECISIONS. ACCORDINGLY, IT IS THE PUBLIC POLICY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK THAT:
1. EVERY INDIVIDUAL HAS THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO CHOOSE OR REFUSE CONTRACEPTION; AND
2. EVERY FEMALE HAS THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT TO DETERMINE THE COURSE OF HER PREGNANCY, WHICH INCLUDES THE RIGHT TO CARRY A PREGNANCY TO TERM OR TO TERMINATE A PREGNANCY: (I) IN THE ABSENCE OF FETAL VIABILITY; AND (II) AT ANY TIME IF SUCH TERMINATION IS NECESSARY TO PROTECT THE PREGNANT FEMALE’S LIFE OR HEALTH.
The reference to health is, of course, a weasel word meant to say, in essence, “any time she wants to.” So abortion-on-demand will now, if Gov. Cuomo has his way, become a “fundamental right” in New York State. Implications of that declaration below.
S 1701. AUTHORIZED PERFORMANCE OF ABORTIONS. THE PERFORMANCE OF AN ABORTION BY A QUALIFIED, LICENSED HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONER, ACTING WITHIN THE SCOPE OF HIS OR HER PRACTICE, IS AUTHORIZED:
1. IN THE ABSENCE OF FETAL VIABILITY; AND
2. AT ANY TIME, IF IN THE GOOD FAITH MEDICAL JUDGMENT OF A PHYSICIAN, SUCH TERMINATION IS NECESSARY TO PROTECT THE FEMALE’S LIFE OR HEALTH.
Amazingly enough, the expression “qualified, licensed health care practitioner” is not among the terms defined in Section 1703. Those terms include “abortion,” “contraception,” “gestational age,” “pregnancy,” “state,” and “fetal viability” (the latter of which is basically left up to the attending “health care professional”). So they felt it necessary to define “pregnancy” so that there would be no question that they were talking about real pregnancies and not, you know, women walking around with pillows under their blouses, but couldn’t be bothered to state what constitutes a “qualified, licensed health care practitioner.” So, can RNs do abortions? How about LPNs? Midwives? Physician assistants? Chiropractors? These are all “licensed health care professionals,” so presumably if they take courses in performing abortions, they would then be “qualified.” Abortion is already less regulated than almost any other form of medical practice. This drops the standards even more.
S 1702. STATE REGULATION.
1. THE STATE SHALL NOT DENY, REGULATE OR RESTRICT THE RIGHTS SET FORTH IN SECTION SEVENTEEN HUNDRED OF THIS ARTICLE BY ANY LAW, ORDINANCE, REGULATION OR POLICY EXCEPT BY LAW, REGULATION OR POLICY THAT IS NARROWLY TAILORED TO SERVE A COMPELLING STATE INTEREST AND EXCEPT AS SET FORTH IN SUBDIVISION THREE OF THIS SECTION.
The use of the term “compelling state interest” here lays down the marker. This provision essentially says that New York will undertake no restriction or regulation of abortion whatsoever except where it can discover an interest of such overwhelming importance that it requires such. For instance, the state could presumably mandate that abortions not be performed using dynamite, because such use would violate the state’s interest in having the woman be alive at the end of the procedure. For all practical purposes, however, what this means is that New York state is going to take a lot more interest in whether the chefs at a Poughkeepsie greasy spoon wear hairnets than it is in the conditions at the local abortuary.
2. THE STATE SHALL NOT DISCRIMINATE AGAINST THE EXERCISE OF THE RIGHTS SET FORTH IN SECTION SEVENTEEN HUNDRED OF THIS ARTICLE IN THE REGULATION OR PROVISION OF BENEFITS, FACILITIES, SERVICES OR INFORMATION.
I other words, pretty much any propaganda that Planned Parenthood wants state funding for will be approved, as will state funding for any abortion, no matter what the circumstances. In addition, this raises real questions about whether hospitals that refuse to perform abortions will be eligible for state funding. The Troy Record reported on assurances given by various legislative leaders, and they are in no way reassuring:
Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli also spoke at the rally. Stewart-Cousins said it was “absolutely not” true that the measure under consideration would endanger the operating licenses of Catholic hospitals that do not perform abortions.
The issue, of course, is not licensing, but funding. Few hospitals can survive financially solely on what they receive from patients or insurance companies; virtually all receive significant amounts of money from the federal or state governments, for instance, for treating Medicaid patients. But if the state is prohibited from “discrimination against the exercise of the rights” (not, notice, against women; discrimination is usually defined as being against persons, not legal abstractions), it would seem to follow that the state is also prohibited from funding those who discriminate “against the exercise of the rights” to abortion and contraception. Needless to say, the Catholic Church is up in arms, saying in a memo on the bill:
“What is not provided in the bill are protections for institutional providers, such as religious hospitals and other agencies that do not wish to be involved with abortion,” the conference said. “The bill declares that ‘the state shall not discriminate’ against the exercise of the fundamental right to abortion in the ‘provision of benefits, facilities, services or information.’ In other words, it would permit state regulators, such as the State Health Department or State Insurance Department, to require support for abortion from any agency or institution licensed or funded by the state.”
Finally, there’s this:
3. NOTHING IN THIS ARTICLE SHALL PROHIBIT THE ENFORCEMENT OF GENERALLY APPLICABLE STATUTES, RULES OF LAW AND REGULATIONS GOVERNING MATTERS SUCH AS PRACTITIONER LICENSING, PHARMACEUTICALS AND MEDICAL DEVICES, AND MEDICAL PROCEDURES.
4. NOTHING IN THIS ARTICLE SHALL BE CONSTRUED TO CONFLICT WITH ANY APPLICABLE STATE OR FEDERAL LAW OR REGULATION PERMITTING A HEALTH CARE PROVIDER TO REFRAIN FROM PROVIDING ABORTIONS DUE TO THE PROVIDER’S RELIGIOUS OR MORAL BELIEFS.
And that’s meaningless boilerplate. Translated, it says, “if you want to practice medicine and not do abortions, fine, but don’t expect us to pay for any services you provide to non-abortion patients whom you are legally required to treat.”
All in all, this bill is a declaration of war on those who seek to perform invaluable medical services for millions of New Yorkers in pursuit of a religious calling that the state has now deemed beyond the pale. It’s also a good old-fashioned Bronx cheer for those who think that abortion is somewhat less important in our constitutional scheme of things than freedom of speech or religion, or who think that abortion mills should be at least as well policed as your average pizza parlor. It may go down well on the Upper West Side, but I suspect fly-over country may have a somewhat dimmer view of it.
UPDATE: As Cindy T. points out in the comments, osteopaths really are doctors. I’ve changed my reference above to refer to a “licensed health care professional” whom one would not normally associate with abortion.
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