NEW YORK — Medical professionals from across New York gathered at the state Capitol Feb. 27 to oppose local leaders’ plans to dramatically widen abortion access in the state.
“We believe the governor’s proposed legislation would expand abortion and actually be less safe for women than current laws,” said Dr. Anne Nolte, director of the National Gianna Center for Women’s Health and Fertility in New York City..
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing for the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, which would strengthen the position of legal abortion in state law. The legislation would create a “fundamental right” for a woman to end a pregnancy.
The bill would allow almost unrestricted abortion in New York, including late-term abortions. The legislation would permit any licensed “health-care practitioner,” including non-doctors, to perform abortions.
Current New York law prohibits abortion after 24 weeks, when children are considered viable outside the womb, yet includes an exception to save the life of the mother.
Nolte’s Gianna Center hosted Wednesday’s press conference and organized it together with the New York State Catholic Conference. Health-care professionals from the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish traditions all came together to oppose the proposed legislation.
“Induction and delivery, or a Cesarean section, both of which allow you to care for the living child, are actually safer for the woman than an induced abortion after 24 weeks,” Nolte pointed out.
Dr. Miriam Grossman is a psychiatrist. She explained that her profession has by and large ignored the emotional effects of abortion because it is “steeped in political correctness.”
Most psychiatrists, she said, discount any mental effects following from procuring abortion, but that, in fact, “a proportion of women suffer very significantly” after abortion.
“We’re not saying every single woman or man has lasting emotional difficulties; we’re saying some do, and we’re saying that a significant number do,” explained Grossman.
“If there’s legislation passed to make abortions even more available than they already are ... we are without a doubt going to have even more people suffering from emotional consequences.”
Dr. Ali Ko Tsai, an obstetrician-gynecologist, also spoke at the press conference.
“From my experience, I am not aware of any circumstance in which the death of a viable child is medically necessary to preserve the health of the mother,” she said.
“My concern is that such an expansion could allow abortion on demand throughout pregnancy, to the detriment of both women and infants.”
She also expressed concern that the bill “would potentially allow non-physician health-care providers to perform surgical abortions.”
Obstetricians undergo years of rigorous training, she said, and are specifically taught how to handle emergency situations. They are also in hospitals with the equipment and staff necessary to deal with complications.
“The way the bill is worded, it seems like the patient and the health-care provider don’t have to be in a well-equipped facility, and that’s very dangerous,” Tsai said.
She said the legislation, by not requiring that abortions “be performed in the safety of a hospital … emulates the conditions of a Third World country and is a step in the wrong direction.
There is also concern that the bill’s conscience protections are both poorly defined and insufficient.
Cuomo called for the legislation in his Jan. 9 State of the State address. Polling has found that 75% of New Yorkers oppose the provision allowing non-doctors to perform surgical abortions.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York in a Jan. 9 letter to Cuomo voiced “great disappointment” with the governor’s decision to propose the legislation, saying the move would increase New York’s “scandalous” abortion rate.
New York already has an abortion rate almost twice the national average. More than 40% of pregnancies in New York City end in abortion, and the rate is worse among minority communities.