On 22 January 2019, New York state passed the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), which specifies three circumstances under which a healthcare provider may perform an abortion in New York: (1) the patient is within twenty-four weeks of pregnancy, (2) the fetus is non-viable, or (3) the abortion is necessary to protect the patient’s life or health. The first one, that of abortion being accessible within the first twenty-four weeks of pregnancy, is not unique to New York, as many other states allow medical professionals to provide abortions during this time. The latter two have caused significant controversy because they detail certain circumstances in which abortions would be accessible after twenty-four weeks. This paper will focus on these latter two circumstances. I will first argue that any debate or discussion about (2) must go beyond the conventional debate about the ethics of abortion and incorporate, more appropriately, a discussion on euthanasia and the ethics of end-of-life care for nascent human life. In particular, it requires us to consider the morality of non-voluntary active euthanasia for non-viable fetuses, rather than just a discussion of the ethics of late term abortions. When it comes to (3), I will argue that assessing its moral permissibility actually raises some legitimate moral concerns, even from a reproductive rights perspective. On certain readings, it seems as if condition (3) would allow for the termination of a healthy fetus for reasons not related to the mother’s physical health or life. If this is the case, I argue, the right to an abortion would be construed as a right to fetal termination, rather than just fetal evacuation. However, I will argue that there are good reasons that pro-choice advocates should interpret the right to an abortion as a right to fetal evacuation instead of termination, and if this is the case, a woman should not be able to demand the death of a healthy fetus if ending the pregnancy safely via fetal evacuation would suffice.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- History and Philosophy of Science