Hurrah for women’s rights!
‘We’re saying that here in New York, women’s health matters. We’re saying here in New York, women’s lives matter. We’re saying here in New York, women’s decisions matter.’
Sounds good, doesn’t it? NY Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Democrat, was speaking this week after legal changes were made to protect women’s ‘reproductive rights’ in the state of New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo even directed that the One World Trade Centre and other state landmarks be lit up in pink as a celebratory gesture to ‘shine a bright light forward for the rest of the nation to follow.’
Who could disagree with women’s rights being shored up and increased? So what exactly are these strengthened reproductive rights that are being acclaimed so publicly in NY?
Well, women/ladies/girls/people with a cervix (delete according to your current identity), if you live in New York state, you can now terminate your ‘pregnancy’ – that’s a bit easier than ‘baby’, isn’t it? – up to full term if you say that this is necessary to ‘protect your health’. Not your life, mind you, just your health.
Got that, folks? Up to full term. Even better, you don’t even need to get your ‘pregnancy’ ‘terminated’ by a qualified doctor now. Certain ‘terminations’ will be now available from a ‘licensed practitioner’ – that’s someone who is not a qualified physician or surgeon:
Section 2 of the bill creates a new Article 25-A of the Public Health Law (PHL), which states that an abortion may be performed by a licensed, certified, or authorized practitioner within 24 weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or at any time when necessary to protect a patient’s life or health. (Bold type added).
How will this healthcare practitioner make a decision about doing this ‘termination’?
“According to the practitioner’s reasonable and good faith professional judgment based on the facts of the patient’s case: 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.” (Bold type added).
So who defines ‘reasonable’ and ‘necessary’? Who ascertains the ‘facts’ of the patient’s case? Who will monitor the ‘reasonable and good faith professional judgment’ of the practitioner? Who defines ‘good faith’? Presumably the answers will ultimately be ‘the patient’ in many cases. Given the massive feminist drive to ‘advance’ reproductive rights in NY, are we to believe that all doctors and practitioners will be happy to refuse some termination requests under this new law?
And while we’re looking at definitions, what exactly constitutes ‘health’? If a woman’s ‘health’ needs protecting from a pregnancy, should we not know what exactly the boundaries of ‘non-health’ are? And before anyone cites contraception failure, what about the thousands of women who have repeated ‘contraception failures’ and end up having 5 or more abortions? Where does a bit of personal responsibility come into this? It’s one thing to say that a pregnancy may be terminated to preserve the mother’s life (although such cases are not the everyday occurrences activists would like us to think) but another entirely to say that it may be terminated to ‘protect that patient’s health’.
Misogynist! What are you talking about? How can you deny women these choices? This is what
abortionreproductive rights are for! A woman’s life may be in danger from her ‘pregnancy’! If we don’t allow abortiontermination freely to all women who have the misfortune to find themselves pregnant, millions of women will be at risk of death! At risk of mental health ‘issues’! At risk of physical harm! At grave risk of inconveniencedisempowerment and subjugation to the patriarchal hegemony!
Really? Let’s just look at these oft-claimed dangers to maternal life and health, shall we?
I’m looking here at the UK government’s abortion statistics for 2016 (the most recent publicly available) as they were easier to find and define than NY state statistics. England, Wales and New York state are all parts of western society, with rural areas and urban centres, so they’re comparable at a broad level.
A – the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk to the life of the pregnant woman greater than if the pregnancy were terminated;
B – the termination is necessary to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman;
C – the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman;
D – the pregnancy has not exceeded its twenty-fourth week and that the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of any existing children of the family of the pregnant woman;
E – there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped;
or, in an emergency, certified by the operating practitioner as immediately necessary:
F – to save the life of the pregnant woman;
G – to prevent grave permanent injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman.
The most frequently cited of the grounds for abortion in England and Wales is ground C. In these countries in 2016, 97% of abortions were carried out under ground C – that’s 180,794 abortions due to the apparent risk of ‘injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman’. No wonder this is sometimes referred to as the ‘abortion on demand’ clause. A further 2% were carried out under ground E (3,208 abortions) and a similar proportion (1%: 1342 abortions) under ground D.
So where were all the women who were at risk of death or grave injury if they carried on with their pregnancies in 2016? How many of the 190,406 abortions were due to a threat to the mother’s life or risk of grave permanent injury to the mother?
Well, the answer is 252. No, that’s not a typo. 252. That’s 0.001% of the England and Wales abortions in 2016. And it gets better – 246 of those were carried out under grounds A and B. But only 6 – yes – 6 abortions were carried out under grounds F or G. Six abortions out of 190,460.
That’s a tiny proportion. Are we to assume that the proportions vary significantly in other western countries? Including the US and New York state? In 2016, the NY Department of Health recorded 82,189 abortions in the state. Of these, 1763 were carried out at 20 weeks’ gestation or later. What are the chances that this post-20 week figure will now rise significantly?
Most people with ethical or moral objections to abortion will accept that, in a small number of cases each year, abortion is the lesser of two evils. It is a life-changing event for a woman, even if we’re told it isn’t. Despite holding religious or other reasons for opposing abortion, we must recognize that there are, sadly, cases where the preservation of a mother’s life is the best option in a tragic situation. I am not arguing the case here that rape victims, incest victims and so on be all denied a termination. That’s another argument.
However, while it’s clear that some women – a tiny proportion, I would argue – do have a need to take the termination route, going by the figures, this doesn’t have to mean that the ‘danger to life and health’ argument can be applied to all cases of requests for abortion. But as is so often the case, the activists amongst us like to refer to the outliers, the rare cases, as if they were the norm. They’re not.
Bearing this in mind, what do we make now of New York state’s legal revision of women’s ‘reproductive rights’? By revising the law in the state, NY’s legislators have made it easy for women to choose to exercise their rights right up to the end of their pregnancy if they wish. All they have to do is get a practitioner or a doctor to believe that their health (unspecified) is ‘at risk’ (unspecified). Was there not sufficient legal protection for women who are at major, life-threatening risk under the ‘old’ law?
Think I am over-reacting? How easy will it be, do you think, to obtain figures for gestational length at the point of termination under this new law as time passes? Where are the checks and balances going to be situated? What doctor or ‘practitioner’ is going to feel able to refuse to ‘assist’ a woman in NY state who claims a late abortion under these new arrangements? At what stage is the definition of ‘necessary to protect the patient’s life or health’ going to be tested in court? Would you agree to be the unfortunate medic who is willing to be pilloried and publicly hung out to dry as a misogynist because he or she has refused to comply with a patient’s request? If a pregnant woman in the late stages of pregnancy now goes to a NY abortion-provider and says ‘Give me a termination now or I will kill myself’, what do you think may be the outcome?
There is bound to be an increase in post-24 week abortions in NY state, because the law now allows it.
As Senator Stewart-Cousins said, ‘We’re saying that here in New York, women’s health matters. We’re saying here in New York, women’s lives matter. We’re saying here in New York, women’s decisions matter.’
She further added, ‘By no means do we think that decisions around these very important life issues are to be taken lightly. We just understand who needs to be taking them, and we need to get out of the way and let people make those choices.’ (Italics added).
Reproductive rights? Baby rights? Is this what women’s rights have come to?
So while New York aims to ‘shine a bright light forward for the rest of the nation to follow’, one wonders what exactly the light is shining on. Whatever it is, not all women are happy about it.
There’s a very interesting piece here from the US website Christiannews.net about this.