There has been a lot of discussion about the New York 2019 Reproductive Health Act signed by Governor Cuomo.

Under what conditions can a legal abortion be performed under the NY 2019 Reproductive Health Act?

Certain popular pundits claim that legal abortions may be performed post-birth if the mother claims that the child is a threat to her mental and/or physical health. Is an abortion legal in this case?

2 Answers 2


There is no time limit on performing a legal abortion. §2599-bb of the bill says that a physician

may perform an abortion when, 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

It is left to ordinary language interpretation to understand what "abortion" is. The ordinary meaning of abortion does not include act that follow birth or a child. The law as amended still defines homicide as

conduct which causes the death of a person under circumstances constituting murder, manslaughter in the second degree, or
criminally negligent homicide

and deleted the clause which included the clause

an unborn child with which a female has been pregnant for more than twenty-four weeks

(this is how abortion past 24 weeks was formerly illegal). The definitions say that

A person, when referring to the victim of a homicide, means a human being who has been born and is alive

Once a fetus becomes a person by being born, the homicide statute prohibits killing the person. So apart from the fact that killing a person is not "an abortion", the law does not make it legal to kill any man being who has been born and who is alive.

As for what constitutes "health", that is not delimited by law, that is, it says simply "health", not "physical health". In general, "health" without modifiers means any kind of health. In fact, in Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 it was found that

whether a particular operation is necessary for a patient's physical or mental health is a judgment that physicians are obviously called upon to make routinely whenever surgery is considered

  • I meant to include as a part of the question as to whether abortions are legal post 24 weeks if the mother feels that the child would be a psychological risk to her (or perhaps in the future) as a part of "protecting the patient's life or health", but I forgot. Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 14:12
  • @SarahSzabo In which case please edit your question. Its fine to do so, although putting "Edit" in to mark the bits you've added will help to avoid confusion (put two stars at the start and end to make stuff bold). Make sure the "post birth" and "post 24 week" questions are distinct. Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 15:17
  • 24 weeks is the time limit established in Roe v. Wade, so there is a time limit. The other part only comes into effect at certain circumstances.
    – Putvi
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 15:58
  • Roe v. Wade does not say that a state cannot extend that limit, it sets a minimum standard.
    – user6726
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 16:00
  • Yes, but when it is “necessary to preserve the life or health of the mother”. Not as broadly as this law does. Your answer says there is no time limit. There is a time limit, but it is not in effect in certain circumstances.
    – Putvi
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 16:17

New York's new law makes clear that abortion is legal in the state under three circumstances:

The new law extends abortion to the "moment of birth" if the mother can show it is needed in the interest of her health and a doctor agrees or that the fetus could not survive outside the womb. If you can't show one of those two things, abortion is not allowed after 24 weeks.

Abortions after the child is born are still not legal and would be considered homicide.

Killing a baby once born was and is still considered a homicide. https://www.factcheck.org/2019/02/addressing-new-yorks-new-abortion-law/

The reason pundits say that New York wants babies to be aborted after they are born is that the abortion is no longer in New York's penal code.

The RHA removes abortion from the state’s penal code altogether; the homicide statute still defines a “person” as “a human being who has been born and is alive.” https://www.factcheck.org/2019/02/addressing-new-yorks-new-abortion-law/

It is still illegal to preform an abortion after the baby is born, but the view of the pundits is that the language of the law does not condemn the action as harshly now.

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