Zeldin supported the bill with narrow exceptions

Gov. Kathy Hochul has stepped up her attacks on Rep. Lee Zeldin, the Republican front-runner and her opponent in the November election.

A Hochul campaign Facebook ad accuses Zeldi of holding views out of step with New York voters.

“He voted for the ban on abortion even when the mother’s health is at risk,” the ad says.

Her ad cites two votes, both on October 3, 2017, in HR 36, vote #549 and HR 36, vote #548.

The bill passed the House of Representatives, with the support of Zeldin, and has not passed the Senate.

Passed during the 115th Congress, the “Protection of Unborn Children Capable of Pain Act” would have banned abortions after 20 weeks and outlined circumstances where exceptions would be allowed to protect the life of the pregnant woman and for rape and incest.

The exception to protect the life of the mother stated: “According to reasonable medical judgment, abortion is necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical disease, or physical injury, including a danger to life.” . the physical condition caused or arising from the pregnancy itself, but not including the psychological or emotional condition.”

When abortion bans allow exceptions to protect a mother, the legal distinction between “life” and “health” is important.

We asked Hochul’s campaign about the claim that Zeldin favors bans that don’t take maternal health into account. Jerrel Harvey, a spokesman for Hochul, provided a portion of the Congressional Record where Democrats introduced an amendment during a floor debate that would have considered the mother’s health — not just her life — that Zeldin and other Republicans voted against. .

“As currently written, HR 36 shows no concern for the mother’s long-term health, her future ability to bear children, or her ability to care for her family,” said Rep. Julia Brownley, D-CA, during the debate earlier. the bill was voted down in 2017. “This bill would force women to carry pregnancies to term, even when their health is at risk.”

Zeldin’s campaign spokeswoman, Katie Vincentz, said Brownley’s amendment was not substantive and that Zeldin’s vote was on a motion to reconstitute, which is a procedural vote usually voted along party lines. Vincentz said the bill already had an exception to protect the life of the mother.

Priority for health exemption

An exception to abortion laws that allowed consideration for the mother’s health in addition to her life was an established precedent. In a 2000 case, Stenberg v. Carhart, the U.S. Supreme Court found that a Nebraska statute that lacked a health exemption was unconstitutional, and Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, rejected arguments that there was no need for a health exception. In 2007, however, the court upheld a federal partial birth abortion ban that did not include a health exception.

Experts said that without a health exemption, health care providers may be afraid of what treatment to offer.

Doctors work hard to care for patients and stay within the bounds of the law, and the bans provide language that is often imprecise, not clinically meaningful, and therefore confusing to health care providers, said Dr. Jen Villavicencio, from the American College of Obstetricians. and Gynecologists, which supports abortion rights.

“The progress of pregnancy is gradual, as are the complications associated with it, whether they are new emergent complications or worsening of chronic conditions,” Villavicencio said. “In some cases, a pregnant person’s life may indeed be at risk, but in other cases, that line may be more difficult to identify.”

Cary Franklin, a UCLA law professor and faculty director of the Center for Reproductive Health, Law and Policy, said HR 36’s life exemption, as written, does not protect the health of the pregnant person.

“There’s a chilling effect when you have a lifetime exemption that doesn’t include health,” she said. “Many doctors are concerned and afraid that if they provide the best care in a given circumstance, they will be taken to court.”

Anti-abortion advocates have said that an exception to protect the mother’s health is not necessary or that they create loopholes and make abortion bans meaningless.

In testimony to Congress in 2013, Dr. Anthony Levatino, a former abortion provider who speaks out against abortion, said that abortion is not necessarily required later in pregnancy and that he was able to save patients whose lives were threatened by their pregnancies by delivering their babies. .

“In most such cases, any attempt to perform an abortion ‘to save the mother’s life’ would result in unnecessary and dangerous delay in providing appropriate, truly life-saving care,” he said.

Critics of the bill said it did not take into account mental health conditions, such as suicidal thoughts, and threatened penalties for doctors who could limit care in emergency situations.

Our decision

In her ad, Hochul said Zeldin voted in favor of banning abortion even when the health of the expectant mother is at risk.

For the bill cited in the ad, this is true if the health concern for the expectant mother was not life-threatening.

The bill he voted for included an exception to the ban when the expectant mother’s life was in danger.

Zeldin voted in favor of a ban after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which included an exception to protect the life of the pregnant woman. The ban did not allow for exceptions for considerations of the long-term health or mental health of the pregnant person.

PolitiFact’s ruling on the governor’s claim requires understanding the difference between an expectant mother’s life and her health.

Simply put, in this legislation, Zeldin was okay with an exception to the abortion ban if the expectant mother’s health problem endangered her life. He was fine with one exception if the health problem was not life threatening.

With this distinction in mind, we rate this Mostly True.

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