New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sent a legal opinion to the state comptroller on September 7, which says that abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy should be allowed in the state.
The criminal law in the state requires abortions to be performed before 24 weeks or when it is needed to save a mother's life.
But, according to Schneiderman, health exceptions should permit abortions at any time during a pregnancy because of exceptional health situations. He said that Supreme Court rulings superseded the 1970 state law which criminalized abortions performed later than 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Schneiderman's opinion would now give legal protection to those abortion providers who perform late-term abortions.
"New York law cannot criminalize what the federal Constitution protects," Schneiderman wrote in the legal opinion sent to the comptroller who had requested assistance over payments to health care providers. He added that "abortion performed after 24 weeks from the commencement of pregnancy is legal in New York when the fetus is not viable or when the abortion is necessary to protect the health of the pregnant woman."
However, the "health" of a mother was arbitrarily defined by Supreme Court ruling Doe vs. Bolton under the broad categories of physical, emotional, psychological, and family health issues.
Schneiderman said that his legal opinion removes the discrepancy between state law and the federal regulations on abortion.
"Today's opinion eliminates any ambiguity about the consistency of our state's law with these federal constitutional rights and, as a result, removes an obstacle some New York women may encounter when trying to make their own reproductive health choices," Schneiderman said in a statement.
"The United States Supreme Court has made it clear that the right to choose abortion is constitutionally protected from undue burdens until viability [when the fetus has chances of survival outside of womb], and that the determination of viability must be made by the attending physician," Schneiderman's legal opinion states.
Schneiderman's opinion was welcomed by many pro-choice groups who have been lobbying to eliminate abortion restrictions and regulations.
"Today's opinion by the attorney general is critical confirmation that women have a right to adequate medical care and reproductive choice in New York state," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Meanwhile, the attorney general's decision has raised concerns from religious groups.
Dennis Poust, New York State Catholic conference spokesman, said that the new move "emboldens the darkest side of the abortion rights movement, those who would kill a fully developed child in the womb without a hint of remorse or regret."
"This wide open definition of viability is an invitation to eugenics," Ed Mechmann was quoted as saying by Baptist Press. Mechmann said that most of the times fetal anomalies are discovered during the later stages of pregnancies.