Conservative backlash was swift following a set of abortion laws passed by the New York State Legislature earlier this year. Now, Republicans in Putnam County are beginning a battle to see the law overturned.
The Carmel town board waded into the controversial topic at its meeting last week, drawing up a resolution that would rescind the law and “protect the life of the unborn while also caring for the health and well-being of the mother.” The state legislation, the Reproductive Health Act (RHA), states an abortion is legal within the first 24 weeks of the start of a pregnancy or anytime after that if a woman’s life or health is at risk or if the fetus isn’t viable. Abortions could also now be done by other healthcare professionals, not just physicians.
The Senate voted in favor 38-24, while the Assembly approved it by a 92- 47 margin, mostly along party lines, to codify Roe v. Wade even if the federal law is struck down by the Supreme Court, which is a concern some Democratic lawmakers have with the highest court in the country holding a 5-4 conservative majority.
Councilwoman Suzi McDonough, whounsuccessfully ran for the state assembly a few years ago, introduced the legislation.
“It is a serious thing, I am against it 100 percent,” McDonough said of the state legislation.
Town board members, all Republicans, passed the resolution unanimously at last week’s meeting to a round of applause.
Several residents spoke up in support of the town board’s resolution, slamming Democrats at the state level that pushed the law through.
Mahopac resident Peg Doherty said non-board certified doctors like physician assistants and nurse practitioners are not qualified to handle abortions, calling their involvement “dangerous to the health of the woman.” She called the celebration of the law by state lawmakers once Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed it, “revolting.”
“Is this humane to treat a viable, innocent baby this way,” Doherty said. “I certainly don’t think it is.”
Mahopac resident Ann Gerbeth said she was 31 when Roe v. Wade became settled law in the nation. The thought back then was it would make abortions legal, safe and rare, Gerbeth said, but this new state law puts the safety issue into question and will result in more abortions.
“I have lost sleep thinking how barbaric this is,” she said.
Former Carmel supervisor Frank Del Campo, a Republican, said while the town board can’t change state laws, advocacy can go a long way to effecting change at a larger level. Residents and town board members would be wrong to think the resolution is only symbolic. He commended the town board for having the “guts” to put the measure forward.
Putnam County Legislator Amy Sayegh, a Republican, said the legislature is also looking to draw up a resolution admonishing the RHA because lawmakers should speak up for those that cannot speak for themselves. Legislator Ginny Nacerino, a Republican, is working with legislative counsel to craft a resolution that will be on a future agenda, Sayegh said.
But not everyone in town believes this resolution was a worthwhile endeavor. Carmel Democratic committee chairwoman Jennifer Colamonico said there has been a deliberate misinformation campaign by conservatives about the new set of abortion laws, calling it “outrageous.”
That Democrats support infanticide is “completely untrue” and late term abortions occur because the life of the mother or baby is at risk she stressed. Colamonico said many healthcare providers are allowed to participate in the birth of a child besides a doctor, which makes it safe for a nurse practitioner or physician assistant to participate in an abortion.
She also stressed no baby is left to die by a doctor, but noted there are births in which the baby cannot survive and a parent can choose to deny intervention for a baby that is going to die with or without medical assistance.
“We’re not talking about live babies that are just being randomly killed,” Colamonico said. “It’s absolutely outrageous.”
She slammed the Carmel town board for pushing a repeal of the state law considering town government has no jurisdiction over the issue of abortion, arguing this is all just a political ploy.
“It’s a very convenient distraction for the town board who should be dealing with real issues,” Colamonico said. “This is just a sensational distraction that does nothing to help the taxpayers of Carmel.”