On January 22, 2019, the 46th anniversary of the landmark abortion case Roe V. Wade, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the New York Reproductive Health Act (RHA). This bill is a pro-abortion bill that allows abortions to be performed from the first week of a pregnancy up until the point of birth in the state of New York for almost any reason.
The RHA is widely praised by many pro-choice individuals, who declare that the bill is a victory for countless women. On the other hand, many in the pro-life community decry this new measure and believe that it is a direct violation of an unborn baby’s right to life.
What exactly is the implication of this new law? As opposed to past abortion regulations in New York, an unborn child can now be aborted as late as the third trimester (27 weeks) in order to “protect the patient’s life or health.” The RHA, however, does not give us specific details on what “health” means and has left it ambiguous. The word “health” can be associated with physical health, but it can also refer to emotional health, mental health, psychological health, or any health reason that a medical personnel thinks is enough to allow a late-term abortion.
Pro-choice people may point to the fact that legalizing abortions past the third trimester will prove significant in situations when the mother’s life is at risk or when the fetus is non-viable, and they argue that most late-term abortions in the U.S. are performed only for reasons of fetal non-viability or abnormalities. Although those two arguments are persuasive and seem rather accurate, further research on this topic may raise some concerns about their validity.
First, regarding the argument for late-term abortions when the mother’s life is at risk, Dr. Kent Ingle relates, “It’s been well medically documented that after 28 weeks, the third trimester, there are absolutely no reasons why an infant must be aborted. There are certainly complicated instances that can put the mother’s life in peril, and these can require premature deliveries, C-sections, or other ways to safely remove the child. But with late-term abortions … no serious medical situation exists that requires the infant to be aborted to save the mother’s life. In every case, the child can be delivered alive without posing a fatal threat to the mother.” In other words, while late-term abortions may play a role in saving a mother’s life, numerous doctors say that in most cases, a baby can still be born without endangering the life of the patient and that late-term abortions are not critical.
In addition, regarding the argument that most late-term abortions in the U.S. are performed for reasons of fetal non-viability or abnormality, a recent study done by the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute shows that the majority of late-term abortions are not performed for reasons of fetal non-viability or abnormality. Instead, most late-term abortions “are usually of entirely healthy pregnancies where the woman was either unable to receive an earlier abortion (often due to a failure to recognize the pregnancy or a logistical delay) or changed her mind about keeping the child (often after a falling out with a spouse or partner).”
Furthermore, it is important to note that many stories exist of premature deliveries of infants in the second trimester and that those infants have survived to term (37 to 42 weeks). Fetuses generally become viable between 24 and 28 weeks and can survive independently outside of the womb, but the RHA allows abortions past 24 weeks on infants now considered viable in order to protect the mother’s health, which as mentioned before, includes physical, mental, and emotional health.
Countless individuals may ask the question “when does life begin?” At the moment of fertilization, a zygote is created. The zygote has DNA provided by both parents and, thus, all of the genetic information to develop into more mature stages. The zygote period lasts about four days. He/she develops into a blastocyst for some 14 days and then develops into an embryo. After nine weeks post-conception, he/she can be called a fetus.
According to the Human Coalition, “The most common criteria scientists use to determine life are if something has the capacity to grow, metabolize, respond to stimuli, adapt, and reproduce. Thus, from the time of fertilization, the zygote is alive because he/she has all of these qualities. The baby’s sex can be derived as early as five to nine days after conception. His or her heart beats around day 24 … The idea of ‘potential life’ presumes that something has the ability to, at some point in the future, become alive. But as our brief look at the zygote confirms, he or she is alive at the point of conception. Through internal self-direction, he or she is growing, metabolizing, responding to various stimuli, adapting to the environment, and already has the necessary genetic material in place for reproduction.”
We may agree with many of the things that various prominent leaders say about life, but as Christians, individuals should remember to keep in mind what the Bible says regarding the sanctity of life.
Psalm 139:13-16 declares, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
Jeremiah 1:5a states, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.”
Moreover, Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”