The New York State Catholic Conference is asking Catholics to oppose a new bill it says would loosen the state’s abortion laws and promote abortion on demand.
The conference’s Catholic Advocacy Network sent an advocacy alert to its members June 11, urging them to tell their state legislators and Gov. David Paterson that they oppose the Reproductive Health Act (S-5808), which, at Paterson’s request, was introduced June 5 by Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and 23 cosponsors. The bill is similar to the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act, which was introduced in 2007 at the request of then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
According to the Catholic conference, the Reproductive Health Act would — like its predecessor — legalize abortion for virtually any reason throughout all nine months of pregnancy, and make abortion immune to such state regulations as requirements for parental notification or informed consent. The conference says the bill also would allow any health-care practitioner to provide abortions.
Unlike the bill that had been promoted by Spitzer, the revised bill does contain a conscience clause that states, “Nothing in this article shall be construed to conflict with any applicable state or federal law or regulation permitting a health care provider to refrain from providing abortions due to the provider’s religious or moral beliefs.”
However, in its action alert the Catholic conference said that the language in this clause is ambiguous and inadequate, and likely applies only to individuals — not institutions — who do not wish to provide abortions. If the bill became law, the conference noted, it could be used to force religious hospitals to allow abortions, force employer insurance plans to cover abortions, force religious charities to counsel and refer clients for abortions, force Catholic schools to educate children about abortion, and force individual doctors, nurses and medical personnel to promote abortion.
Conference officials expect an Assembly version of the bill to be introduced soon. Although leadership of the Senate is still in flux following a June 8 coup staged by Republicans and two Democrats, the conference noted that there are still a few days left in the state’s regular legislative session, during which the Senate could act on the legislation.
Visitors to the conference’s Web site, www.nyscatholic.org, may click on the “Take Action Now” button to access a draft message of opposition to the Reproductive Health Act. This message may be customized and sent to Paterson and members of the state Senate and Assembly directly from the conference’s Web site.