Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) announced her plans to introduce legislation to protect the right for women to make their own end of life decisions, an idea she got after reading an article in The New York Times.
“The article was about a woman in Texas who was in a vegetative state and who is being kept alive to this date because she’s pregnant and Texas doesn’t acknowledge a pregnant woman’s request to be taken off of life support,” Simotas said.
The woman was 14 weeks along when she suffered an aneurism and was put on life support despite her and her family’s wishes she be taken off.
“Reading that article, I began thinking about how New York law treats this but New York is silent in regards to this,” she said. “In Texas they force this woman to be an incubator but do not promise to care for the child once it is born.”
It was then Simotas decided she wanted clear legislation that would ensure women’s end of life decisions even when they are pregnant.
“These kinds of decisions are not made lightly,” Simotas said. “They are made after a lot of thought and contemplation by the woman and her family. Someone doesn’t just wake up and make that decision and for a hospital to disregard this personal decision is extremely disrespectful.”
The legislation would apply to women who are within their first trimester of their pregnancy, as federal law allows.
“A state should never be permitted to exercise such an extreme and inappropriate level of intervention as to deny a woman’s wish to die with dignity in order to use her body to gestate a fetus,” she said. “New York must stand up for the rights of women to have their personal and private decisions about their bodies respected and not simply cast aside in the event of a tragic accident or debilitating illness.”
According to Simotas, more than 30 states have enacted statutes prohibiting physicians from removing a terminally ill woman from life support if she is pregnant.
“The rights afforded to individuals to make a decision regarding their end of life care should never be denied to women simply because of their capacity to become pregnant,” Simotas said. “Forcing a woman in a persistent vegetative state to remain alive and, possibly, in pain as an incubator for a fetus offends the very notion of personhood.”
Simotas said she isn’t worried about getting flack from pro-life supporters as while pregnancy termination remains controversial on a moral level, it is accepted on a legal level.
“New York is also a state where a predominate amount of residents are pro-choice,” she said. “There are groups that are pro-life and that is a philosophical difference but that is not the law of the United States.”
The bill is still in the drafting stage as Simotas solidifies its language.
She is confident that a companion bill will be introduced to the state Senate.