INTENDED CONSEQUENCES: Cuomo fights to legalize late-term abortion.
Nathaniel Brooks/The New York Times/Redux
INTENDED CONSEQUENCES: Cuomo fights to legalize late-term abortion.

Cuomo’s crusade

Abortion | New York’s governor wants to expand legal abortion in an already abortion-heavy state

Issue: "Rejecting religious liberty," June 15, 2013

NEW YORK—Staffers accused him of reusing bloody tools, of keeping a 6-month-old aborted baby in a freezer, and botching dozens of abortions. A woman died after one of his abortions, according to the state health department. He was found guilty of performing a late-term abortion and nearly killing a woman in a botched abortion.

This was in 1993 in New York City, not at recently convicted late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia clinic. Dr. Abu Hayat, who ran an abortion clinic on the Lower East Side, faced criminal charges after he severed a baby’s arm in the course of a botched late-term abortion. Rosa Rodriguez testified that she had second thoughts about the abortion at the clinic, but Hayat told her it was too late and put her under anesthesia. She testified that she awoke and saw blood everywhere. The next day Ana Rosa Rodriguez was born alive, without an arm, weighing in at 3 pounds, 1 ounce. After Rodriguez came forward, 30 other women accused Hayat of botching their abortions.

The story sounds familiar. Gosnell was convicted of three counts of murder, all babies born alive whose spines he severed. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in overdosing a patient, who died. Less covered was Gosnell’s conviction for aborting 21 babies after Pennsylvania’s 24-week limit. 

We see you’ve been enjoying the content on our exclusive member website. Ready to get unlimited access to all of WORLD’s member content?
Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.
(Don’t worry. It only takes a sec—and you don’t have to give us payment information right now.)

Get your risk-free, 30-Day FREE Trial Membership right now.

In New York too, doctors can face criminal charges for abortions of babies older than 24 weeks and for manslaughter of a patient in the midst of an abortion. Hayat was convicted and sentenced to up to 29 years in prison for assault charges (on both Rodriguez and her unborn baby) and for performing a late-term abortion.

The statutes that resulted in Hayat’s conviction could change by the end of June because New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, is seeking to pass a bill that would expand the legality of late-term abortions and remove certain criminal penalties associated with abortion. A proposed bill would legalize abortions after 24 weeks for the physical or emotional health of the mother. 

“It would eliminate the ability to have that trial,” said Anna Franzonello, a lawyer with Americans United for Life and an expert on New York abortion law, referring to Gosnell’s trial.

The crafters of the proposed law disagree. In the preamble to the bill, the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), they write, “Sufficient protections still exist to address abortions which are performed by healthcare practitioners under circumstances that constitute unprofessional, tortuous, or criminal conduct.” But the RHA goes further, offering legal protection only to infants born alive.

Even Gosnell’s attorney Jack McMahon, in a recent interview with Fox News, said he thought abortion should be illegal after 16 weeks. “I’ve come out of this case realizing that 24 weeks is a bad determiner,” he said. “It should be like 16, 17 weeks. That would be a far better thing, because the babies would not even be arguably viable at that time, and I think the law should be changed to that … [women would] still have the right to choose, but they’ve got to choose quicker.”

As many states are passing more restrictions on late-term abortions and abortion clinics, Cuomo is one of the only governors looking to loosen restrictions. New York already has some of the most relaxed rules—NARAL Pro-Choice America gives New York’s abortion laws an A-minus (see sidebar below). Concurrently New York has one of the highest abortion rates in the country at 33 percent, and in New York City itself, 41 percent of pregnancies end in abortion. In 2009, the city reported 87,273 abortions.

“There was a time when abortion supporters claimed they wanted to make abortion ‘safe, legal, and rare.’ Yet this measure is specifically designed to expand access to abortion, and therefore to increase the abortion rate,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, wrote Cuomo in a letter in January. “I am hard pressed to think of a piece of legislation that is less needed or more harmful than this one.” Cuomo responded to Dolan recently, “We agree to disagree, respectfully, and that is where we are.”

Cuomo has said the proposal would simply bring New York’s laws into alignment with Supreme Court precedent. The court in Doe v. Bolton allowed abortions at any point for the sake of the life or health of the mother. But no court has overturned New York’s abortion laws, so they remain enforceable, according to lawyer Mary Spaulding Balch, who heads up the National Right to Life Committee’s department on state legislation.

New York has rarely enforced its own laws against abortions after 24 weeks, but Planned Parenthood acknowledges that abortion clinics operate under the assumption that they could be prosecuted for violating the laws. In a recent statement in support of the proposed legislation, Planned Parenthood said, “Fear of criminal prosecution deters healthcare providers from offering the best reproductive health care under certain circumstances.”


You must be a WORLD member to post comments.

    Keep Reading


    Life with Lyme

    For long-term Lyme patients, treatment is a matter of…


    Job-seeker friendly

    Southern California churches reach the unemployed through job fairs