The pro-life community’s reaction to Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposal to rewrite New York’s abortion law is universally negative, based on a sampling of opinions from various local pro-life advocates.
If Spitzer’s Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act becomes law, it would prohibit future efforts to put limits on abortion and contraception, such as laws providing for parental notification of abortions being performed on minor children and efforts to inform women about potential adverse health effects of abortion, said Jann Armantrout, diocesan life-issues coordinator. Armantrout, who gave an overview of the proposal during a May 21 meeting at the diocesan Pastoral Center, is working on a presentation about the proposal that ultimately will be given at area parishes.
“If this was passed, a 14-year-old child will be able to acquire the powerful hormones in the emergency-contraceptive pills to terminate a pregnancy without any parental awareness or physician consultation,” Armantrout said.
The New York State Catholic Conference has urged New Yorkers to contact their representatives and voice their opposition to the proposal, which would eliminate a conscience protection from the current law, forcing Catholic hospitals to support, cover or perform abortions. The proposal also would transfer abortion laws from the state’s criminal code to its public-health law, leaving it up to medical professionals to police themselves, and it would block efforts to establish an unborn victims of violence law that would allow an unborn child to be considered a second victim when its mother is assaulted or murdered. The proposal also would allow abortions to be performed by health-care providers other than medical doctors, potentially endangering babies inadvertently born alive, and it would allow late-term abortions to be performed on an out-patient basis in clinics.
“A bill like this goes way too far in exposing women to the hazards of abortion, to undermining parental rights and responsibility, and to establishing a blatant disregard for the dignity of human life,” Armantrout said.
According to Spitzer, the proposed law would establish a “fundamental right of privacy” including the right to choose or refuse contraception and the right to bear a child or have an abortion. Under current state law — which the Catholic conference says is unenforceable due to federal decisions — abortions are legal through 24 weeks of pregnancy and can be performed after that time only to save a woman’s life. The conference says Spitzer’s proposal would aim to ensure abortion is legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy if the procedure is necessary to protect a woman’s life or health. The conference further noted that court interpretations of the term “health” have been so broad that it includes social, economic and emotional distress factors, rendering the term meaningless.
“It’s troubling on so many fronts,” Jean Baric, a board member of Feminists Choosing Life of New York (formerly Feminists for Life of New York), said of the proposal. “Feminists Choosing Life just spent a day in Albany lobbying for the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, a separate bill, but if this gets passed, basically it guts that concept on a state level.”
Baric said her organization has lobbied against many of the issues in Spitzer’s bill, such as on-demand availability of emergency contraception.
“I think the proposal is an overreaching attempt to enshrine abortion, and I would certainly hope that the people of New York, represented by their legislators, would be able to see the rampant destruction of life that this will create and the harm that it will do to women,” said Geraldine Oftedahl, former president of Rochester Area Right to Life and New York State Right to Life who also is a member of the diocesan Public Policy Committee.
Carol Crossed of Rochester, a member of Democrats for Life, said pro-life activists will be held accountable by the next generation if they do not speak out against the bill.
“How are we going to explain this to our children — that women in New York state didn’t do everything we could to stop the enshrinement of the killing of the unborn?” she said.
Baric noted that although Spitzer’s proposal is multifaceted and sweeping in scope, there is much that can be done to fight it.
One current lobbying effort against the bill is being spearheaded by the Catholic conference’s Catholic Advocacy Network, which is asking members to bring their concerns to state Sen. Joseph Robach of Greece. According to news reports, NARAL Pro-Choice New York has said it will try to help get Spitzer’s proposal passed by targeting such moderate Senate Republicans as Robach.
Armantrout said those interested in getting involved in advocacy efforts regarding Spitzer’s proposal should contact her or their parish’s pastor and social-ministry committee, as volunteers will be needed to make presentations to educate parish staff and parishioners. She also suggested that individuals register with the Catholic Advocacy Network at www.nyscatholic.org to receive alerts about advocacy efforts.
“We need everyone to register with the Catholic Advocacy Network so they can stay up to date and informed about this issue,” Armantrout said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information on the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act or to participate in advocacy efforts, contact Jann Armantrout at 585/328-3210, ext. 1304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.