While the law officially limits abortion to the first 24 weeks gestation, abortion is permitted at a later gestational age for reasons related to the wellbeing of the mother. Additionally, the bill removes act of abortion from the criminal code, and instead places it in the public-health code, and strips most safeguards and regulations on the procedure. Non-doctors will now be permitted to perform abortions.
Writing on his official blog on the eve of the bill's passage, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said bishops are not supposed to be "politicians or culture warriors," but said that the new law was an affront to the rights of the most vulnerable.
"If our governor, senate, and assembly has their way, abortion will be legal up to the moment of birth; those large numbers of healthcare professionals who find the termination of pre-born babies repugnant will have no conscience rights to object; trained physicians will be not be required to perform the dismemberment; and a baby who survives the scalpel, saline, or suction, and is still alive, can be left to die without any care."
"This is 'progressive'?" Dolan asked.
"All people have rights: the immigrant, the poor, the pregnant woman… and her baby. All God's children, Reverend [Martin Luther] King would insist, are equal and have rights," the cardinal concluded, recalling the recent observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Day.
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In a statement published on the state website, Gov. Cuomo called the signing a "historic victory for New Yorkers," and that "in the face of a federal government intent on rolling back Roe v. Wade and women's reproductive rights, I promised that we would enact this critical legislation within the first 30 days of the new session - and we got it done."
Cuomo said that he hopes other states will follow in New York's lead and pass similar legislation.
Bishop of Albany Edward B. Scharfenberger, questioned if supporting and signing this law could impact Cuomo's standing in the Catholic Church and ability to receive communion. "This legislation threatens to rupture the communion between the Catholic faith and those who support the RHA even while professing to follow the Church, something that troubles me greatly as a pastor," wrote Scharfenberger.