An ad hoc group of Westchester and Putnam residents have appealed to Somers officials for their help in battling a new state law that they claim “aggressively” expands abortion rights.
Putnam County legislators recently passed a resolution calling on Albany to repeal the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), which became law in January on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision supporting abortion rights.
The Carmel Town Board also passed a resolution calling on the state to repeal the new measure last month.
Speakers at the Town Board’s work session Thursday, April 4, said they would like Somers to do the same.
Such resolutions have no direct impact on the law and are simply vehicles for local governments letting state lawmakers know where they stand.
Even if Roe v. Wade is eventually struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, it will still be codified by the RHA, legal experts say.
The pro-RHA folks say it increases reproductive health rights for women and protects medical care providers.
Although opponents say they would like to see the whole RHA vanquished, they at least want some of the provisions removed, according to Mahopac resident Ann Gerbeth, one of the folks who spoke during the board’s “public comment” period Thursday.
The law allows abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy if a woman’s life or health is in jeopardy. It gets rid of criminal charges for harming a fetus and also allows medical professionals other than doctors to perform abortions.
Gerbeth said she and others are trying to rally local governmental entities to tell Gov. Andrew Cuomo, “If you’re not going to change all of (the law), change the most egregious part of it” —the one foes interpret as determining that an unborn child is “no longer a human being.”
“And if it’s killed, it’s OK. It’s just material we can get rid of. That’s not true,” Gerbeth said, adding that she was shocked by the so-called “celebrations” that took place after the law was signed.
These included the lighting in pink of the spire of One World Trade Center and other landmarks. According to media reports, Cuomo called the law an “historic victory” for state residents and for “progressive values.”
Also speaking against the law Thursday was Gerald A. Borreggine.
The Somers man said he was not a politician or an activist, just “a person who refuses to stand by while the state Legislature and the governor declare that unborn babies can be aborted up to the day of birth.”
After reading a prepared statement detailing the many moral, ethical and scientific reasons he thought the procedure was “inhumane,” Borreggine said he hoped board members would use their minds, hearts and souls while deciding whether to pass a resolution similar to Putnam’s.
“Don’t say it’s a state matter and walk away. Slavery is a stain on this country’s soul. I believe abortion is also a stain on our country’s soul,” Borreggine said.
Others in the group spoke of the physical and emotional harm to women who undergo abortions and the unfairness, they said, of not giving the father an equal voice in the decision-making process. There are many childless couples waiting to adopt, they claimed.
No one from the audience spoke in favor of the law Thursday. It should be noted that it was not a pre-announced public hearing, but came during the public comment portion of the board’s work session.
Supervisor Rick Morrissey thanked all the speakers “for taking the time to share their views with us.
“It’s important for us to hear this,” he said.
Morrissey said he shared Gerbeth’s reaction to the “celebrations.”
Calling it an emotionally charged issue, Morrissey said, looking around the table, “I’m sure we all have our own opinions.”
Board members agreed that more information—such as input from the pro-RHA camp—and discussion of the legalities, is needed before any resolution can be crafted, placed on an official agenda, aired before the public, or voted on.