Research

New York State Governor's Committee Appointed to Review New York State's Abortion Law Reports and Public Hearing Transcript

Held by the New York State Archives


Overview of the Records

Repository:

New York State Archives

New York State Education Department

Cultural Education Center

Albany, NY 12230

Summary:
The Committee studied the history of thought and legislation on abortion. They solicited information and opinions from representatives of medical, psychiatric, social, legal, theological, and other fields. This series is the Committee's final report file and includes a hearing transcript, Committee report, supplemental position paper, and correspondence regarding state abortion law in 1968.
Creator:
Title:
Quantity:
0.3 cubic feet
Inclusive Dates:
1968
Series Number:
10996

Administrative History

In January 1968, Governor Nelson Rockefeller appointed this 11-member Committee to review New York's Abortion Law and recommend appropriate changes in time for the upcoming legislative session. The Committee was comprised of 10 men and one woman including clergy, law experts, physicians, and others.

At the time of the Committee's appointment, New York was one of 39 states in which abortion was illegal except where necessary to preserve the mother's life. The Committee was to determine which other abortional acts, if any, should be exempt from criminal consequences (i.e. declared "non-criminal") and under what conditions.

The Committee studied the history of thought and legislation on abortion. They solicited information and opinions from representatives of medical, psychiatric, social, legal, theological, and other fields. A public hearing was held on February 29 at which 53 speakers presented their views. Among the speakers was Betty Friedan, President of the National Organization for Women and author of The Feminine Mystique (1963). Other speakers included clergy of various faiths, physicians, psychiatrists, university professors, attorneys, and representatives of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, other abortion reform groups, Right to Life, and social welfare organizations.

In its report to the Governor in March 1968, the Committee proposed new legislation expanding the grounds for legal abortion. A minority of the Committee submitted a dissenting report objecting to the expansion of grounds for legal abortion.

Scope and Content Note

This series is the Committee's final report file, containing: 1) a complete, indexed transcript of the public hearing held on February 29, comprised of 331 pages of testimony from 53 speakers, including Betty Friedan; 2) report of the Committee to the Governor, including a Majority Report focusing on statutory issues and a Minority Report focusing on the morals of abortion. The Majority Report proposed a new statute amending the Penal Law and the Public Health Law to expand the grounds for legal abortion to include: preserving the mother's life; grave danger to the mother's physical or mental health; permanent physical or mental condition rendering the mother incapable of caring for the child; substantial risk of major birth defects or physical or mental abnormalities in the child; pregnancy resulting from an act of rape or incest; pregnancy commenced when the mother was single and under age 16 and is still unmarried; and female has at least four living children (under certain conditions); 3) a paper supplementing the final report entitled "The Law of New York Concerning Abortion and the Status of the Foetus, 1664-1968," prepared for the Committee by Committee member Cyril C. Means and later published; and 4) a small amount of routine correspondence concerning the hearing transcript and the report.

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