Brooklyn Boro

Schneiderman says court sets abortion rights

September 8, 2016 Associated Press
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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New York’s attorney general says abortion rights provided by U.S. Supreme Court rulings can’t be diminished by the state law against late-term abortions enacted before the court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Thursday he sent that legal opinion to the state comptroller, who requested it to help in audits of state payments to health care providers.

State criminal law says abortions must be performed within 24 weeks of pregnancy or when believed needed to preserve the mother’s life.

“No state law can restrict a woman’s constitutional right to make her own reproductive health choices,” Schneiderman said. “This opinion makes crystal clear that all women have a constitutional right to an abortion, irrespective of inconsistent state law. New York’s criminal law cannot penalize reproductive health decisions protected by the U.S. Constitution. The opinion also gives reproductive health care providers assurance that they may provide constitutionally protected reproductive health care services to women without fear of being complicit in a criminal act.”

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Schneiderman writes that the constitution as interpreted by the court protects late-term abortions “to protect the woman’s health” and “where the fetus is not viable.”

He says his opinion “eliminates any ambiguity about the consistency of our state’s law with these federal constitutional rights.

“For too long and at enormous personal cost, New York’s outdated abortion statute has caused confusion, keeping doctors from providing medically appropriate care and interfering with women’s reproductive health,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director, New York Civil Liberties Union.

“As one of New York City’s leading sexual and reproductive health care providers, we know first-hand how important it is to secure the legal clarity necessary to eliminate confusion surrounding abortion care in New York State,” said Joan Malin, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood of New York City. “Current New York law allows abortion care throughout a pregnancy when necessary to preserve a woman’s life; however, it prohibits abortion care later in pregnancy when a woman’s health is at risk. This confusion is harming New York women by restricting their access to health care. We applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for clarifying the law and issuing a formal opinion that health care providers can rely on to provide the best care possible to their patients.”

“New York’s abortion law, once ahead of its time, for too long has been woefully out of date, causing confusion for providers and leaving women without the full extent of their constitutionally protected right to access abortion,” said Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health. “We look forward to the state legislature further updating New York’s abortion law, so that New York women have access to the best care possible.”

“New York was wisely one of the early states to legalize access to abortion, recognizing it is a fundamental component of women’s health care,” said Kim Atkins, board chair of Family Planning Advocates of NYS. “We applaud Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for issuing this opinion, which is in accordance with our state’s legacy and existing federal protections and affirms women in New York have access to the health care they need, and have a constitutional right to obtain.”


—Information from AG Schneiderman’s Office


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