New York State’s legislative session is drawing to a close and the Senate is running out of time to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which would update antiquated abortion policies that have been in place since before the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade. In particular, the bill would eliminate two long-standing statutes that criminalize abortion in certain cases.
One of those statutes criminalizes self-induced abortion, while the other criminalizes abortion after 24 weeks—even in cases where the fetus is not viable or the mother’s health is at risk.
Public health experts and abortion rights activists argue that criminalizing abortion, even in special cases, can have unintended detrimental consequences on women’s health. Women might choose to carry dangerous pregnancies to term, for example, rather than face potential criminal charges.
That’s why Farah Diaz-Tello of the Self-Induced Abortion Legal Team wrote to the United Nations urging them to weigh in on the matter. In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, the UN’s office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights responded to the request with a letter to the UN Secretary General. In it, the UN representative agrees with the assessment that New York’s current policy can be harmful to women’s health, and encourages the state Senate to approve the new Reproductive Health Act.
“This legal framework pre-dates and does not accord with Roe v. Wade (41 U.S. 113 ), the seminal U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion, in which it was established that any state’s abortion regulations must protect not only the life of the patient but also her health,” said the UN representative in their response.
Hopefully, New York’s Senators will take the recommendation seriously and pass the Reproductive Health act in a last-minute vote before this year’s legislative session ends.