Abortion was a criminal act in the United States in 1970 when New York state, as the local American Civil Liberties Union put it, “amended the state penal code to include a new clause allowing for a ‘justifiable abortional act,’ permitting abortions performed within 24 weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, and at any point during pregnancy when a woman’s life is in danger.”
When the law was written in 1970, this was considered progressive. Unfortunately, it was never updated after the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. So today, abortion is still a crime in New York, but with exceptions.
The Roe decision hinged on the notion of viability, only allowing states to limit abortion access after a fetus was viable, which is generally considered around 24 weeks. In our case, our baby would never be viable. Roe also protected the right to an abortion in cases where the health of the pregnant person was threatened.
This left New York’s law inadequate and technically unconstitutional. Because while federal law is supposed to supersede state law, when New York hospital lawyers open the penal code and discover this discrepancy, they conservatively advise health-care providers to steer clear of later abortions, for fear of having their doctors thrown into jail. Sure, they’re just doing their job, but this results in critical denials of federally protected care.