I was 11 or 12 when I stumbled across it – to my dismay. I was assigned a 6th English project to write an argumentative essay on any contentious topic, and after a Google search for ideas, I stumbled across the topic no one likes to talk about: abortion. Upon further research, I found myself impassioned with disapproval – intensely disturbed by the practice of terminating an unborn baby.
But that’s besides the point; I can understand why some people may advocate for first and second term abortions, having seen strong arguments asserting that, at that point, the fetus is not “living.” (After all, the debate about abortion is fundamentally centered on whether the fetus is alive or not). However, we cross the line when we legalize late-term abortions. We go too far for the sake of convenience. And we, America – the nation that demands that everyone have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – have done just that.
Three months ago, the Reproductive Health Act was signed into law on January 22, 2019, by Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York. The enactment of the new state bill has elicited a thunderous reaction from the public, met by both praise and outcry.
The reason for such legislation? New York abortion state laws are outdated, supporters argue, with the only law protecting the reproductive rights of women being the ruling of Roe v. Wade. [In short, Roe v. Wade was a Supreme Court decision that gave women the constitutional right to have abortions; this right was not guaranteed for third-trimester abortions, however.] After Trump’s ascent to the Oval Office, concerns over the possible overruling of the Roe v. Wade decision exploded to the forefront yet again. In response, the Reproductive Health Act was introduced.
According to the bill, an abortion may be performed when, according to the medical professional’s “reasonable and good faith professional judgment … the patient is within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.”
Abortions, under this bill, are legalized throughout all three trimesters of pregnancy, provided that “the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.” But what does the “patient’s health” exactly mean? How can it be interpreted? It’s unbelievably ambiguous and unprofessional. According to Doe v Bolton, another Supreme Court case, the patient’s health can be construed to mean “all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age – relevant to the well-being of the patient.” Before the Reproductive Health Act, late-term abortions occurred only in specifically life-threatening cases. Now, for some inexplicable reason, emotional and psychological health are also considered determining factors in allowing late-term abortions; who knows what other factors of “health” may ultimately be used?
In effect, the bill legalizes late-term abortions until the very point of birth. The Doe v. Bolton case demonstrates that a “health” exception can easily be abused to allow abortion for any reason through all three trimesters of pregnancy. Think about that for a second. A mother could obtain an abortion a week before giving birth (or perhaps even a day!) despite the fact that the fetus has already grown to almost full term and is indisputably living. According to the bill, a mother’s emotional or psychological stress is a legitimate justification for killing off a child days before delivery.
Abortion itself is a heavily debated topic; some believe abortions should only be permitted when necessary to preserve the mother’s life; others argue abortions should only be allowed until the fetus has developed to some degree. For instance, some stop the line at the baby’s first movements (quickening), the baby’s first heartbeat, or when the baby can survive outside the womb (viability). But who cares about what people think anyway? The RHA bill stretches beyond such silly ideas. It isn’t just protecting the reproductive rights of women – it’s declaring the wonderful legalization of killing fetuses at any stage regardless of development, even if the mother’s life isn’t at risk.
Late-term abortions are inhumane, morally insensible – a catastrophic sign that convenience is prioritized over morals. We can terminate a viable pregnancy – a living, real baby on the grounds of protecting a woman’s “health.” With one search, you can easily find stories of real, human babies coming into the world as early as 22 or 23 weeks and surviving. There’s no room for debate. It’s a baby – a living, breathing baby. When we’re terminating that pregnancy at 26 weeks, we are stripping an unborn human of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s murder, no matter what word we use as a euphemism.
Does a patient’s right to their body overrule the baby’s right to live? “What about my choice?” asks Melissa Ohden, an abortion survivor. The debates about whether the fetus is living in the first and second trimesters continue. However, the case has been settled for late-term abortions already- how can one argue that it’s just a cluster of cells, a grouping of organs? Will we diminish the sanctity and value of human life just so we can lift another burden off our plate?
Again, it’s understandable if a late-term abortion is necessary to save the mother’s life. However, this bill is practically legalizing all late-term abortions, regardless of how the abortion may affect the mother. While many people have contrasting views as to when abortion should be legal, most of them can accept that late-term abortions are inhumane and morally insensible. It’s paralyzing how far morals have dropped in America.
For related information, you can look at the Virginia Repeal Act, which proposed to legalize abortions even when the mother was undergoing active labor.