Reproductive Health Act

The Reproductive Health Act is a New York statute enacted on January 22, 2019, that expanded abortion rights, decriminalized abortion, and eliminated several restrictions on abortion in the state.[1] The RHA repealed §4164 of the state Public Health Law.[2] The law has received national media attention.[3]

Reproductive Health Act
Seal of New York.svg
New York State Legislature
Full nameReproductive Health Act
IntroducedJanuary 9, 2019
Assembly votedJanuary 22, 2019
Senate votedJanuary 22, 2019
Signed into lawJanuary 22, 2019
Sponsor(s)Deborah J. Glick (Assembly),
Liz Krueger (Senate)
GovernorAndrew Cuomo
Status: Current legislation


Prior to the passage of the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), New York law banned third-trimester abortions, except when necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman.[4][5] In addition, New York law recognized licensed physicians as the only medical providers able to perform abortions.[1] Abortion was also included as part of the penal law under homicide, and could be charged as a criminal offense prior to the RHA.[2][better source needed]

The Reproductive Health Act and similar bills were proposed in the New York State Legislature beginning in 2007,[6][7][8] but such legislation was blocked by Senate Republicans for years.[9] After Senate Democrats gained a majority in the State Senate in the 2018 elections,[10] they vowed to make the passage of the Reproductive Health Act a priority.[11]


The Reproductive Health Act passed the New York State Senate by a vote of 38–24 on January 22, 2019,[12][2] the 46th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling. The state Assembly passed the Reproductive Health Act, 92–47, on the same day.[13][14] It was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo that evening.[15] Cuomo ordered One World Trade Center and other landmarks to be lit in pink to celebrate the bill's passage.[16] The celebratory lighting of One World Trade Center was criticized by conservative religious figures and politicians, including Vice President Mike Pence.[3] It was decried by one New York Daily News columnist as an act of trolling and politicizing the memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks, to celebrate the passage of a divisive law.[17]

Reproductive Health Act – Vote in the Assembly (January 22, 2019)[18]
Party Votes for Votes against Not voting/Not present
Democratic (105) 94
Republican (43) 42
Independence (1)
Total (150) 95 49 6
Reproductive Health Act – Vote in the Senate (January 22, 2019)[2][19]
Party Votes for Votes against Not voting/Not present
Democratic (40) 38
Republican (23) 22
Total (63) 38 24 1


The RHA legalized all abortions up to 24 weeks of gestation. Beyond 24 weeks gestation, abortion was deemed legal if the woman's health or life are at risk or if the fetus is not viable.[3] Per the norm to not define medical terms in the law, the terms "health", "at risk", and "viable" were not defined in the RHA. It was determined that it is up to the discretion of a woman's medical provider and that woman to determine if her health is at risk, and it is up to medical providers to determine if a fetus is viable based on specific medical criteria.[20]

The RHA permitted advanced practice clinicians (APCs), including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and licensed midwives, to lawfully provide abortion services if they have the appropriate qualifications, and if this falls within their scope of practice.[1][3][20] Before the passage of the RHA, many state medical boards had already permitted APCs to provide abortions, given that studies have shown that APCs who are trained to provide abortion services provide safe abortions, comparable to those provided by physicians.[21] APCs were providing abortions prior to the passage of the RHA in New York, and the passage of the RHA allowed this to be reflected in the law.[20] This has been particularly important in making abortion more accessible by increasing the number of medical practitioners who can provide abortions.[21]

Supporters argued the bill was needed to codify abortion rights in the state, in the event that Roe v. Wade is overturned and the issue of abortion legality returns to the states.[15] Supporters also said the bill was needed to take abortion out of the state criminal code and place it in public health law.[22]

The RHA was criticized because it removed abortion from the criminal code, with potential consequences for crimes against pregnant women. State Representative Nicole Malliotakis said that removing abortion from the criminal code means that if a fetus dies as the result of an assault on a woman, there would be no prosecution.[23] Two legislators who sponsored the act wrote an op-ed arguing that violence resulting in a loss of pregnancy could still be prosecuted as first-degree assault.[24] In February 2019, the Queens district attorney's office dropped a charge of second-degree murder against a man who murdered his pregnant girlfriend, saying their ability to press the charge was repealed by the Reproductive Health Act. However, the man was still charged with murder, a superseding offense, and as such, the dropped charge would not affect sentencing.[25]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Bump, Bethany (22 January 2019). "Cuomo signs Reproductive Health Act after Legislature votes". Times Union.
  2. ^ a b c d "NY State Senate Bill S240". NY State Senate. 2 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d "Abortion law in New York: What the Reproductive Health Act does and doesn't do". Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
  4. ^ "A New York Law Has Catapulted Later Abortion Back Into the Political Spotlight". Time.
  5. ^ Tolentino, Jia (19 January 2019). "How Abortion Law in New York Will Change, and How It Won't" – via
  6. ^ Robbins, Christopher (23 January 2019). "Cuomo Signs Historic Abortion Law, Celebrates By Turning One WTC Pink". Gothamist.
  7. ^ "What to know about NY's expanded abortion law". Newsday.
  8. ^ "New York's Legislation Against Life". Catholic New York.
  9. ^ Precious, Tom (22 January 2019). "Long-stalled abortion bill passes New York Legislature".
  10. ^ Campanile, Carl (7 November 2018). "Democrats take control of NY state Senate for first time in a decade".
  11. ^ DeWitt, Karen (27 November 2018). "NY senators elect first African-American woman as majority leader".
  12. ^ "New York Dems Flex Muscles, Pass Reproductive Health Act". 22 January 2019.
  13. ^ "Abortion laws in New York: How they changed with the Reproductive Health Act". Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
  14. ^ "NY State Assembly Bill A21". NY State Senate. 2 January 2019.
  15. ^ a b Long-stalled abortion bill passes New York Legislature (The Buffalo News)
  16. ^ "Governor Cuomo Directs One World Trade Center and Other Landmarks to be Lit in Pink to Celebrate Signing of the Reproductive Health Act". Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. 22 January 2019.
  17. ^ Rubbing their noses in it: Gov. Cuomo's lighting of the World Trade Center in pink to celebrate passage of the Reproductive Health Act was rude to abortion opponents (New York Daily News)
  18. ^ "New York State Assembly | Bill Search and Legislative Information". Retrieved 2021-11-30.
  19. ^ "Albany Approves Abortion Rights Bill | WNYC | New York Public Radio, Podcasts, Live Streaming Radio, News". WNYC. Retrieved 2020-01-25.
  20. ^ a b c "FAQs about the Reproductive Health Act". NY State Senate. 2019-02-12. Retrieved 2020-07-19.
  21. ^ a b "Ensuring Access to Abortion at the State Level: Selected Examples and Lessons". Guttmacher Institute. 2019-01-04. Retrieved 2020-07-19.
  22. ^ How New York's abortion law has changed (WQAD)
  23. ^ New York puts in measures to protect access to abortion even if Roe v. Wade is overturned (CNN)
  24. ^ Commentary: Claims that Reproductive Act go beyond Roe are wrong (Times-Union)
  25. ^ Kasprak, Alex (February 15, 2019). "Fact Check: Did a Man Escape a Murder Charge Because of New York's Reproductive Health Act?". Snopes. Retrieved April 3, 2019.