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Legal expert: NY's abortion rights unaffected by latest challenge to Roe v. Wade

Lucinda Finley
University at Buffalo School of Law
Lucinda Finley of the University at Buffalo School of Law

The US Supreme Court was hearing arguments Wednesday on a Mississippi abortion ban which many see as a case that could cut back on or revoke the Roe versus Wade decision allowing abortions across the country. New York’s own abortion legislation would be unaffected if the landmark 1973 decision is ultimately overturned, says a UB expert.

Lucinda Finley, the Frank G. Raichle professor at the University at Buffalo School of Law, says what differs is that Roe v. Wade is a court decision, while New York’s legal access to abortion is a law.

“The Supreme Court case that's being argued is about whether states that want to be more restrictive than New York are allowed to be more restrictive than New York,” she said. “It will have no impact on states that want to keep widespread access to abortion.”

Finley explains that under New York’s law, dating back to 1970, there are no restrictions on access to abortion up to the point of viability in a pregnancy. At post-viability, an abortion can be performed only if necessary to preserve the life or health of the woman.

The only way abortion could be outlawed in New York is through a nationwide ban passed in Washington. That would require Republicans to take both houses of Congress and the White House and to abolish the filibuster in the Senate, and then pass a law.

When New York’s legislation was enacted, many women traveled to the Empire State to have a medical abortion. Restrictions in states including Mississippi and Texas, Finley suggests, have led to a new round of travel to this state.

If Roe v. Wade is overturned, more states may seek restrictions or an outright ban on abortions, but barring federal legislation, New York is expected to stand put with its law.

“New York has already chosen to permit all abortions up to the point of viability,” she said.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.