As I sit at my desk writing my column for this week, it is raining and the sky is dark. This gloomy and gray day fits my sentiments when I consider the bill that was introduced recently in our state legislature. The bill offers virtually no limits on abortion and will likely increase abortions across our state. I join Cardinal Dolan and my brother Bishops of New York State in offering the following statement regarding the bill:
“We are profoundly distressed by the introduction of a bill in New York State today that would ease restrictions in state law on late-term abortion and runs the serious risk of broadly expanding abortion access at all stages of gestation. This legislation would add a broad and undefined ‘health’ exception for late-term abortion and would repeal the portion of the penal law that governs abortion policy, opening the door for non-doctors to perform abortions and potentially decriminalizing even forced or coerced abortions. In addition, we find the conscience protection in the bill to be vague and insufficient, and we are concerned about the religious liberty of our health facilities. While the bill’s proponents say it will simply ‘codify’ federal law, it is selective in its codification. Nowhere does it address the portions of federal laws that limit abortion, such as the ban on taxpayer funding, the ban on partial birth abortion or protections for unborn victims of violence.
As the pastors of more than 7.2 million Catholic New Yorkers, we fully oppose this measure, and urge all our faithful people to do the same, vigorously and unapologetically. We invite all women and men of good will to join in this effort and defeat this serious attempt to expand abortion availability in our state and to codify the most radical abortion proposals of any state in the nation.
We support the first nine points in the Governor’s agenda that enhance the true dignity of women. We commit ourselves to examining those proposals and working with the legislature on any and all efforts that help guarantee real equity for all women and men. Our position on these issues will be consistent with all the efforts of the Catholic Church throughout the world to enhance the dignity of women. The direct taking of the life of a child in the womb in no way enhances a woman’s dignity.
Instead of expanding abortion and making abortions even more prevalent, we would like to protect both the woman and the child in the womb. In New York, where one in every three pregnancies ends in abortion (and upwards of 6 in 10 in certain communities), it is clear that we as a state have lost sight of that child’s dignity. We pledge all our efforts to defeat this proposal. We call on all pro-life New Yorkers to stand together with us and with all the leadership in Albany who share our conviction that we have no need for such a bill to become law. We need instead to enhance and promote the life and dignity of all human beings from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death” (New York State Conference of Catholic Bishops, June 4, 2013).
The Catholic Conference will offer a full analysis of this proposal shortly, but in the meantime, it has offered five questions that need to be answered before any abortion legislation moves forward:
Why is the abortion rate in New York State so much higher than the rest of the country?
If the aim of the legislation truly is to codify federal law with regard to abortion, will there be a statewide version of the Hyde Amendment prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortion, a statewide ban on partial birth abortion or legal protection of unborn victims of violence, all of which exist in federal law? Or is the Governor being selective by only codifying the areas of federal law that would expand abortion?
Why would abortion after 24 weeks ever be necessary to protect a woman’s health, when delivery or caesarian section are medically safer procedures at that stage?
How do we know abortion is safe in New York when the state Health Department has offered no records of clinic inspections?
What is our government doing to ensure that New York doesn’t have its own version of Philadelphia abortion butcher Kermit Gosnell practicing his trade here?
Committed to a culture of life, all of us have a responsibility to support women and children and offer real choices to women facing unplanned pregnancies. The diocesan Office of Respect Life is sponsoring a series of gatherings to learn more about resources for women facing unplanned pregnancies. The series, offered regionally throughout the diocese, will include speakers from area crisis pregnancy centers and homes for mothers and children. Please check the diocesan website (www.syrdio.org) for times and locations for the presentations. All are invited to attend.
Providing this type of information for people to share with friends and neighbors is just one way to build a culture of life. I commend our many parishes and agencies that provide daily help and assistance to those in need. They bring the Gospel message to life through their service to others.
I remind you we are all called to exercise our rights and duties as citizens through the legislative process. Please take immediate action to stand against this blatant disregard for human life which the abortion expansion introduces and stand for the Gospel of Life and the dignity of each and every human person. You can remain informed about this important issue and easily contact your state legislators by going to our diocesan website and clicking Catholic Action Network.
Prayer is the most powerful means we have to promote the goodness and beauty of human life and to combat the evil that threatens it. We must pray fervently and with persistence that our elected officials will weigh this bill carefully and thoughtfully. May they focus less on abortion expansion, and more on decreasing the alarming abortion rate in our state and ensuring safety for women and children.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.