MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The Town Board unanimously passed a resolution last week asking the state legislature to rescind the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), which was signed into law by Gov. Cuomo in January, because, among other things, it allows abortions to be carried out into the third trimester.
Dozens of residents came to the Feb. 27 meeting to encourage the board to pass the resolution and send it to lawmakers in Albany.
Councilwoman Suzi McDonough said she’s been approached numerous times by local residents who asked for the Town Board to do something.
“I had some people approach me regarding Gov. Cuomo’s new public health law. In effect, it would allow abortions up through the third trimester,” she said. “It’s gone a little bit too far.”
The board decided not to wait until this week’s voting meeting and, instead, passed the resolution at its Feb. 27 work session.
Mahopac resident Peg Doherty told the board that non-board-certified professionals, such as nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants and midwives, are now allowed to perform the procedure under the new law.
“To me, this is dangerous because they are not really qualified and it’s dangerous to the health of the woman,” Doherty said. “I don’t think this law takes that into account. Further, there will no longer be another physician available to give medical care to a born-alive baby in a failed abortion. So, most likely, the baby will be left to die.”
Doherty cited a Gallup poll that said 81 percent of those surveyed were opposed to third-trimester abortions.
“Clearly when the legislators voted on this, they did not take into consideration their constituents,” she said.
Resident Ann Gerbeth said that when Roe v. Wade became the law of the land, “it was thought it would make abortion legal, safe and rare.”
“There is no doubt about the first one; it’s definitely legal,” she said. “But this law puts the safety issue in question. Abortions in our state no longer have to be performed by a doctor. As for being rare, [one] only has to look to New York City to discover that it’s anything but rare. Since the city tracks abortions by ethnicity, we know that thousands of babies of color are aborted each year. What brings some of us here tonight is the change in what’s permitted. A growing baby in the third trimester has lost rights it once had. The mother’s womb can no longer be viewed as a safe haven for a baby to be nourished and prepared for birth.”
Former town supervisor Frank DelCampo said the board shouldn’t think its resolution is only symbolic and won’t have an impact on state lawmakers.
“I have sat in your position and know what goes through your head,” he said. “Number one is that this is a state issue and we can’t do anything to change what goes on in the state legislature. I once took 100 seniors up to Albany as a young councilman back in ’86 and we changed the law and got tax relief to seniors. Things seem symbolic, but when you work hard at it and send a good message, I know things can affect the minds of the state legislature.”
DelCampo said this wasn’t a religious issue, but a health and cultural issue.
“It’s not religious. We are talking about women’s issues, women’s health. We are talking about life and death,” he said. “This is a serious cultural issue. I can’t believe we are moving in this direction. I have two daughters and I’m not anti-woman.”
County Legislature Amy Sayegh said the Putnam Legislature is moving toward passing a similar resolution.
“This is something we are looking to do,” she said. ‘We are at the very beginning and I commend you (the Town Board) for bringing it up so quickly. It’s not on any [county] agenda yet; it is with our lawyers and in the beginning stages. But it’s something we’ve all been talking about.”
Sayegh echoed DelCampo, saying the Town Board shouldn’t feel impotent on such issues because such resolutions do have an impact.
“Although it’s a resolution and you might feel like it won’t go anywhere, I think as lawmakers it behooves us to stand up for those who can’t speak,” she said. “It’s important to stand up and say that something’s wrong when it’s wrong.”
The resolution reads, in part:
“Whereas, the law contains a series of measures permitting abortions into the third trimester of pregnancy to be performed by health care providers who are not board-certified physicians and expanding reproductive procedures for women, and,
“Whereas, the law creates a new article 25A of the Public Health law and eliminates Public Health Law 4164, which requires a board-certified physician to provide medical care for any live birth that is the result of an abortion where the baby is left to die unless the mother decides otherwise, and
“Whereas, the law permits abortion at any time during pregnancy if the healthcare provider deems it necessary for the life, health and well-being of the mother,
“Therefore, be it resolved, that the Town Board urge all members of the New York State Legislature to introduce and pass legislation to rescind this law and protect the life of the unborn while also caring for the health and well-being of the mother...”