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Young Proposes ‘Liv Act’ In Senate

Legislation Would Criminalize Assault On Pregnant Women

State Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, has introduced legislation in the state Senate to amend the state penal law to establish the crime of assault on a pregnant individual.

The legislation would adds a new section — 120.09 — to the penal code providing that a a person who knowingly or intentionally causes injury to a pregnant individual shall be guilty of assault. The legislation would exempt pregnant individuals, applicable medical providers and other individuals as required by law.

Young has named the legislation the Liv Act in recognition of Livia Abreu, a Brooklyn resident. On the night of May 21, 2018, and into the next morning, Abreu’s ex-boyfriend accused her of cheating on him and stabbed her multiple times in the torso and chest with a household knife. She was 26 weeks pregnant. For more than 30 minutes, he prevented Abreu from calling 911 or leaving the apartment to seek medical attention. Her unborn child died and Abreu was hospitalized with injuries for about two weeks. Several weeks later, the Bronx District Attorney indicted her attacker with second-degree attempted murder, first and second-degree abortion, first and second-degree assault, and unlawful imprisonment.

The instance was referred to recently by state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, in his opposition to the Reproductive Health Act, legislation which supporters said merely codified the existing protections for women included in the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. Goodell criticized the Reproductive Health Act for eliminating a criminal charge based on the death of the baby, leaving only charges based on the attack on the woman herself.

“Presently, the only statutes governing harm to a pregnant woman in New York state would be the same statutes repealed by the Reproductive Health Act (RHA),” Young said in the memo accompanying the Liv Act. “It is well established that these laws are intended for and currently are used by law enforcement to prosecute those who intentionally harm a woman because she is pregnant, the RHA contains no new language recognizing crimes against women who choose to carry the pregnancy to term. To say that current law or other statutes are sufficient for what is all too common abuse is a disservice to these women.”

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 324,000 pregnant women are abused each year in the United States and the severity of intimate partner violence may escalate during pregnancy and the postpartum period. According to a release last year from state Sen. John Flanagan, R-Brookhaven, 38 states have laws on the books that hold perpetrators of violent attacks against pregnant women that result in the loss of their babies accountable, including California and Massachusetts. Another eight states, including Colorado, enhance existing criminal penalties for crimes committed against pregnant women.

Abreu was present for a news conference when the legislation was introduced in late January and said she is neither pro-choice nor pro-life; her advocacy is based on her experience as a domestic abuse survivor.

“New York state has laws recognizing that pregnant women experience discrimination at work,” the legislative justification states. “The state has laws recognizing the necessity of maternity leave. New York state has announced investigations into pregnancy discrimination and retaliation by businesses and major corporations. The state has established the workgroups to look at reducing maternal mortality rates, of which New York has some of the highest in the nation. It would be unconscionable to fail to recognize the reality of these crimes and the true nature of the harm experienced by pregnant women.”

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