A class action lawsuit that was filed Tuesday against Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state officials alleges that the state’s Reproductive Health Act is unconstitutional and enables domestic violence.
The Reproductive Health Act (RHA), passed in January 2019, changed the definition of “person” under New York criminal law to exclude all unborn children, including those capable of surviving outside of the womb even without medical intervention. Under this new definition, an unborn child is no longer able to be considered the victim of a homicide.
Among the lawsuit’s plaintiffs are victims of domestic abuse, who claim the new definition incentivizes domestic violence by removing criminal penalties for the death of unborn children who die because their mothers were threatened or abused. The women are being represented by attorneys who are serving as special counsel to the Women’s Alliance Against Violence, an initiative of the Thomas More Society that challenges laws endangering women and children.
“This new definition is devastating,” Christen E. Civiletto said in a statement provided to The Daily Wire. Civiletto, one of the attorneys who is filing the lawsuit, said that “because a criminal assailant can no longer be separately charged for the death of an unborn child, the RHA escalates the threat of harm to women and unborn children and incentivizes deadly violence against women.”
“New York has stripped women and their families of their ability to pursue justice for those deaths,” Civiletto added. “That’s outrageous. In fact, it is contrary to the stated policy of the RHA itself: to affirm the ‘fundamental right [of women] to choose to carry the pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child.'”
The RHA has been criticized by those who claim it excessively loosened restrictions on abortion, allowing them in some cases up to the point of birth and removing legal protections from babies who survive them. As The Daily Wire reported at the time:
The New York Reproductive Health Act (or RHA) legalizes abortion from week one of a pregnancy through birth for all women in New York state, allowing doctors to perform abortions up to mere minutes before a child is born and well after 24 weeks, the recognized point of viability outside the womb. Such a procedure is allowed if there is an “absence of fetal viability” or the abortion is deemed necessary to protect the mother’s “health,” which includes emotional and psychological health. …
“By completely gutting abortion from New York’s criminal law, the RHA removes the state’s only prosecutorial tool for holding violent abusers accountable for the death of wanted unborn children,” a Times Union opinion writer reports. “Studies show that domestic violence escalates during pregnancy. New York’s version of a fetal homicide law lies within the abortion provisions of its penal law, which the RHA repeals.
Attorney Michele Sterlace, who is executive Director of Feminists Choosing Life of New York and also serving as counsel Women’s Alliance Against violence, said of the law: “Violence against women and girls, including pregnancy violence, is a human rights violation of epic proportions. We should be enacting, rather than repealing or amending, laws created to deter violence and save human lives. How can we speak of progressivism and feminist ideals yet turn a blind eye to laws that escalate violence against women in the name of ‘choice’?”