Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Jan 12, 2021 / 16:01 pm
A lawsuit was filed Tuesday against the state of New York over its 2019 law legalizing some abortions throughout pregnancy.
Among the plaintiffs are victims of domestic violence, alleging that New York's Reproductive Health Act helped enable domestic abuse by removing penalties for the death of unborn children resulting from abuse.
The women are represented by attorneys serving as special counsel to Women's Alliance Against Violence, a new initiative of the Thomas More Society to challenge laws that enable violence against women and children.
The Reproductive Health Act, enacted in 2019, legalized abortion in some cases up until the point of birth. It also excluded unborn babies from the definition of "persons" with legal rights and removed protections for babies who could survive abortion attempts.
In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that the law is unconstitutional for allowing late-term abortions when the life of the mother is not at stake, and is "void for vagueness."
Furthermore, the lawsuit says, the law puts pregnant women in greater danger from domestic abusers; by removing legal rights of unborn children, it effectively removes criminal penalties for domestic abuse that results in the death of the child.
"New York has stripped women and their families of their ability to pursue justice for those deaths," said Christen Civiletto, one of the attorneys filing the federal action. "That's outrageous. In fact, it is contrary to the stated policy of the RHA itself: to affirm the "fundamental right [of women] to choose to carry the pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child."
Counsel for the group allege that by deregulating abortion and expanding the number of staff who can perform abortions, the law also resulted in lower safety standards for women and put them at greater risk.
"There are numerous cases where women have died or been injured during abortions performed by unqualified and untrained clinic staff," stated Catherine Glenn Foster, counsel to Women's Alliance Against Violence.
When the Reproductive Health Act was passed and signed into law, critics of the law said it was extraordinarily permissive of abortion.
The law expanded those who could legally perform abortions to include nurse practitioners and physicians assistants; it allowed for abortions at any point in a pregnancy in the case of fetal inviability or "when necessary to protect a patient's life or health." The law also decriminalized illegal abortions.
In February 2019, the Queens County district attorney reportedly cited the law in dropping an unlawful abortion charge, in the case of a man accused of killing his pregnant girlfriend. While the man was still charged of second-degree murder for the killing of his girlfriend, he reportedly was not charged with unlawful abortion for the death of the baby.
Another lawsuit was filed in 2019 against a separate abortion bill enacted that year. Pregnancy care centers and a Baptist church sued over another law that barred employers from discriminating against "reproductive rights" in the workplace.
Faith-based groups claimed that the law did not include religious exemptions, thus possibly violating the rights of churches and pregnancy centers to uphold their pro-life beliefs in the workplace.