Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo, pictured at an event in Riverhead Jan. 21.

The State Legislature Tuesday passed legislation to codify Roe v. Wade into New York State law.

The Reproductive Health Act, passed on the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision, amends the public health law to make it legal for a licensed health care practitioner to perform an abortion for a patient within 24 weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or if there is “an absence of fetal viability” or the abortion is “necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.”

The act also removes references to abortion from the state Penal Law.

The State Assembly passed the Reproductive Health Act in the past two legislative sessions, but it did not progress in the upper chamber. With the Democratic majority in the State Senate this session, the bill moved forward and passed today 38-24, with every Republican senator, including First District Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) voting against the measure.

The bill passed in the Assembly today 82-27. Second District Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) voted against the measure, as he has in the previous two sessions.

Palumbo explained his vote in a phone interview Tuesday night. The bill goes too far in several respects, as the assemblyman sees it.

Its language leaves the door open to late-term abortions — after 24 weeks of pregnancy, he said. Since the bill will allow abortion “necessary to protect the patient’s life or health,” it would allow abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy if the procedure is deemed necessary to protect the patient’s health.

It allows someone who is not a physician to perform the procedure, which Palumbo believes does not provide adequate care for the patient. He also believes the law should require the presence of “a doctor who can care for the baby should it be born alive.”

Removing all references to abortion from the penal law, Palumbo said, means there is no penalty for what he termed “nonconsensual abortion.” Someone who assaults a pregnant woman with the intention of causing a miscarriage and causes the death of the fetus can no longer be prosecuted for the death of the fetus, he said.

“I find that very offensive,” Palumbo said.

Although he is personally opposed to abortion, he said his personal position “is really of no moment” because “the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken and that’s the law of the land.”

First District Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) was one of numerous cosponsors of the bill in the Assembly.

The governor, who has repeatedly called for the passage of legislation to codify Roe v. Wade in New York and in December promised to sign the bill into law within the first 30 days of 2019, signed the bill last night.

“With the Reproductive Health Act now enacted, a woman’s right to make personal decisions about her own reproductive health will be protected in New York State — no matter what the federal government or the Supreme Court do in the future,” Cuomo said in a press release.

The governor last night called for amending the state constitution “to enshrine Roe v. Wade into law for all future generations and settle this issue once and for all.”

Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic praised the state’s action, “celebrating New York’s refusal to turn back the clock on safe, legal abortion and acknowledgment of the centrality of accessible reproductive health care.”

In a statement, Vincent Russell, Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic president and CEO said his organization’s “mission is to empower individuals to determine their own sexual health and reproductive futures. The passage of these bills gives them that power.”

 

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.