The United Nations made the rare move of getting involved in a New York state legislature debate Tuesday over a bill that would make self-induced abortion and abortions past the 24th week of pregnancy legal.
Several special rapporteurs from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) wrote to UN Secretary General António Guterres, advocating the legislation and arguing that the current law puts women’s “lives and health at risk.”
“Criminalization of abortion and the failure to provide adequate access to services for the termination of an unwanted pregnancy constitute discrimination on the basis of sex,” they write.
“We have called upon States to repeal restrictive laws and policies on abortion, particularly considering that they have discriminatory impacts and negate women’s choices about their own bodies,” they continue.
“Under current New York law, a woman who attempts to induce her own abortion at any stage is considered to have committed a Class B criminal misdemeanor,” they explain, “and a woman who ends her own pregnancy or has an abortion performed after 24 weeks’ gestation is considered to have committed a Class A criminal misdemeanour. Health care providers who perform abortions after 24 weeks are also criminally culpable.”
“Concerns have been raised regarding the impact that criminalization of ‘self- abortion’ is likely to have on low-income women, who due to limited means and reduced access to health care are most likely to seek to terminate their own pregnancies and consequently most likely to be harmed by the current legislation,” the rapporteurs emphasize.
They add that concerns have also “been raised about the anachronistic treatment of abortion in New York law, given all abortions after 24 weeks are criminalized except for those that would threaten the life of the patient. This legal framework pre-dates and does not accord with Roe v. Wade (41 U.S. 113 ), the seminal U.S. Supreme Court decision on abortion, in which it was established that any state’s abortion regulations must protect not only the life of the patient but also her health.”
It is interesting that the UN found New York’s laws to be “anachronistic” given that 25 other states restrict late term abortions past 24 weeks and the United States has some of the least restrictive abortion laws in the world. The UN didn’t seem too concerned over the abortion restrictions in Saudi Arabia when it elected the country to the UN’s commission on gender equality and the empowerment of women in April.
Additionally, according to the latest data available from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), New York has the highest abortion rate of any state, 36.3 abortions for every 1,000 women between 15-44, and the highest abortion ratio – 598 for every 1,000 live births. New York City reported 69,840 abortions and 116,777 registered births, which makes the city’s abortion rate 60 percent of its birth rate.
Apparently these high abortion rates aren’t enough for the United Nations and, while women aren’t even allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, the UN is ensuring that the women of New York can legally engage in dangerous, self-induced abortions and have access to late-term abortions.