The New York State Legislature and Abortion
Barry MacDonald is the Editor of The St. Croix Review and President of Religion & Society.
After watching politics for many years I have adopted of a rule of thumb: However outrageous the forces of the political Left are today, without determined opposition, they will move even further left tomorrow.
In January 2019 we have witnessed the New York state legislature allow the aborting of unborn babies up to moments before a natural birth.
The new law is the Reproductive Health Act (R.H.A.), and it sanctions abortion under three conditions: (1) if it is performed earlier than 24 weeks of pregnancy; (2) in an “absence of fetal viability”; or (3) if necessary to “protect the patient’s life or health.”
The inclusion of the health of the mother, which is not restricted to a physical definition, and includes the mother’s psychological and emotional health, is broad enough to cover any possible late-term abortion.
Also, according to America, The Jesuit Review, the R.H.A. removes protections for infants born alive during abortions. Sam Sawyer, writing for America, writes:
“The R.H.A. repeals section 4164 of New York’s public health law. That section had provided that abortions after the 12th week of pregnancy had to be performed in a hospital, and that for abortions after 20 weeks a separate physician had to be on hand to provide medical care for any infant born alive during the procedure — which is a possibility, even if an unlikely one.”
“The now-repealed section also specified that a child born alive during an abortion procedure immediately enjoyed the protection of New York’s laws, and it required medical records to be kept of the efforts to care for the infant. Without section 4164, the public health law is now silent on the status of an infant born alive during an abortion.”
The new law also stipulates that to perform an abortion a license to practice medicine is no longer required in New York. A “health care practitioner licensed, certified, or authorized” under New York’s medical licensing laws can perform abortions. This means that licensed nurse practitioners, or physician assistants, can perform abortions.
The New York State Senate celebrated their progressive advancement with a standing ovation — they honored themselves. The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, authorized the lighting of the Freedom Tower in Manhattan, with a joyous projection of pink light — in celebration of a woman’s right to end the life of her unborn child.
The Freedom Tower is the site of the 9/11 terrorist attack, where thousands of people died. The tower is, presumably, sacred American ground — at least the location and the building have been consecrated and memorialized.
But for progressives, apparently, there is nothing sacred about life and death anymore. Andrew Cuomo and the Democratic Party in New York are introducing the undisguised diminishment of human life into American culture.
The New York law would have been unthinkable during the presidency of Democrat Bill Clinton. Almost twenty-five years ago, Bill and Hillary Clinton said that though abortion is a “fundamental constitutional right,” abortion should be rare. In her opposition to a proposed ban on partial-birth abortion in 2008, Hillary clarified her position: She wanted abortion to be “safe, legal and rare, and by rare, I mean rare.”
There is a terrible reality behind the euphemisms that politicians use when talking about abortion. The following paragraphs are from my editorial published in June 2011, titled “What the Case of Kermit Gosnell Says about Us.”
Kermit Gosnell, M.D., spent nearly four decades running his clinic, The Women’s Medical Society, in Philadelphia. The grand jury case against him states:
“This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy — and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels — and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it. . . .
“The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again. Medical equipment — such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff — was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house. [The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the prosecutors cited dozens of jars of severed baby feet.]”
James Johnson is the common-law husband of Gosnell’s wife’s sister. He worked as a janitor, maintenance man, and plumber at the clinic. He testified at trial how he threatened to quit work, because when the staff flushed remains down the toilets (into Philadelphia’s sewage system) the toilets would back up once or twice a week. He would open the outside clean-out pipe to see babies’ arms and other parts come spilling out. With a shovel he scooped up the baby parts, put them in bags, and took them to the basement.
“The people who ran this sham medical practice included no doctors other than Gosnell himself, and not even a single nurse. Two of his employees had been to medical school, but neither of them were licensed physicians. They just pretended to be. Everyone called them “doctor,” even though they, and Gosnell, knew they weren’t. Among the rest of the staff, there was no one with any medical licensing or relevant certification at all. But that didn’t stop them from making diagnoses, performing procedures, administering drugs.
“. . . the real business of the ‘Women’s Medical Society’ was not health; it was profit. There were two primary parts to the operation. By day it was a prescription mill; by night an abortion mill. A constant stream of ‘patients’ came through during business hours and, for the proper payment, left with scripts. . . . The fake prescriptions brought in hundreds of thousand of dollars a year.
“. . . As with abortion, as with prescriptions, Gosnell’s approach was simple: keep volume high, expenses low — and break the law. That was his competitive edge.
“. . . Gosnell catered to the women who couldn’t get abortions elsewhere — because they were too pregnant. Most doctors won’t perform late second-trimester abortions, from approximately the 20th week of pregnancy, because of the risks involved. And late-term abortions after the 24th week of pregnancy are flatly illegal. But for Dr. Gosnell, they were an opportunity. The bigger the baby, the more he charged.
“. . . Babies that big are hard to get out. Gosnell’s approach . . . was to force full labor and delivery of premature infants on ill-informed women. The women would check in during the day, make payments, and take labor-inducing drugs. The doctor wouldn’t appear until evening. . . . Many of them gave birth before he even got there. By maximizing the pain and danger for his patients, he minimized the work, and cost, for himself and his staff. The policy, in effect, was labor without labor.
“There remained, however, a final difficulty. When you perform late-term ‘abortions’ by inducing labor, you get babies. Live, breathing, squirming babies. Most babies born prematurely will survive if they receive appropriate medical care. . . . Gosnell had a simple solution . . . he killed them. . . . He called it ‘ensuring fetal demise.’ . . . by sticking scissors into the back of the baby’s neck and cutting the spinal cord. He called that ‘snipping.’”
On May 13 Kermit Gosnell was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder of infants born alive, and one count of involuntary manslaughter of a woman, Karnamaya Mongar, who died of an overdose of anesthesia given by an unqualified assistant. He was also found guilty of conspiracy, of performing abortions beyond the legal limit in Pennsylvania, and over two hundred violations of the state’s informed consent law. On May 14 Gosnell was sentenced to life in prison.
Also four former clinic employees have pleaded guilty to murder, and four more to other charges. They include Gosnell’s wife, Pearl, who helped perform abortions.
As bad as Gosnell’s conduct was, the evil goes beyond him. The grand jury reported several agencies responsible for oversight should have stopped Gosnell years ago. Gosnell was caught when police raided the clinic to stop the selling of illegal prescriptions. Police saw the revolting conditions, dazed patients, and baby parts.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health (PDH) examined the Women’s Medical Society when it opened in 1979. It didn’t conduct a review again until 1989, ten years later. Violations were apparent in 1989 but Gosnell promised to fix them. The PDH did reviews in 1992 and 1993, and again recorded violations, but failed, again, to enforce the law. After 1993 the clinic wasn’t examined for 20 years. The grand jury found that:
“. . . the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey [a pro-life Democrat] to Governor Ridge, [a pro-choice Republican], officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions. Better to leave clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and babies would pay.”
Kermit Gosnell’s business model was clearly outside of the law in 2011. Governor Cuomo, the New York state legislature, and the Reproductive Health Act have given Kermit Gosnell’s practice a claim of legality. *