Advocates will lobby in Albany March 20
A proposed expansion of abortion rights in New York will be the lead issue for delegates to Catholics at the Capitol Day March 20 in Albany.
This annual public-policy advocacy event will draw to the Empire State Plaza Convention Center Catholics from all over New York state -- including several dozen from the Diocese of Rochester. They will meet with their legislators to discuss five priorities that have been selected by the state’s bishops. Participants will lobby their government officials to:
- oppose the Women's Equality Act, an outgrowth of the Reproductive Health Act, which would significantly expand abortion rights;
- preserve Catholic schools and offer adequate resources for all school children;
- provide affordable housing for low-income and vulnerable populations;
- support humane treatment for people who are incarcerated; and
- ensure that reform of Medicaid benefits consumers and maintains quality of care.
The abortion bill has been a matter of heightened concern since Gov. Andrew Cuomo named as a priority in his Jan. 9 State of the State speech the passage of the Women's Equality Act. His action has spurred statewide efforts by the New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the state's bishops in public-policy matters, to block the bill and its provisions. The Catholic conference, sponsor of the March 20 lobbying day, maintains that passage of the act would permit late-term abortion on demand; allow non-physicians to perform abortions; preclude such regulations as parental notification for minors’ abortions, taxpayer funding of abortion and informed consent for women seeking abortion; endanger the religious liberty of Catholic hospitals and other institutions; and undermine the state’s maternity programs.
"We have been hearing each year to be prepared to fight this bill, but it never came forward (in the legislature). With the governor's enthusiastic push of it in his State of the State address, it may actually come to a vote this year," said Marvin Mich, director of social-policy research at Rochester's Catholic Family Center.
"It is a tremendous issue that goes back to the question: When does a 'person' become a person with dignity and rights?" said Elizabeth Berliner, who will be in Albany March 20 as a delegate from St. Mary Our Mother Parish in Horseheads and of a regional social-ministry network from Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler.
While acknowledging that the Women's Equality Act will take top priority because it involves the protection of innocent human life, Mich stressed that "all of our issues are linked in the consistent ethic of life. We cannot choose just one issue and ignore the rest."
For instance, to advocate on behalf of Catholic schools, Berliner -- the retired principal of the former Holy Family Middle School in Elmira -- has attended Catholics at the Capitol Day most of the last 15 years, often bringing with her a couple of students.
Along with highlighting the five priorities selected by the state Catholic conference, delegates from the Rochester Diocese will present petitions signed by parishioners during Public Policy Weekend Feb. 9-10. The petitions urge the state to invest $300 million in subsidies so that low-income working families can obtain safe, high-quality child care. Additionally, Berliner expressed hope that participants in the March 20 event "do not leave our legislative appointments without some comment on gun control."
The schedule for Catholics at the Capitol includes rosary recitation with the Knights of Columbus, followed by a procession to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for a 1:30 p.m. Mass.
Mich said approximately 70 people from the Rochester Diocese are expected to make the trip, including 50 traveling on a bus from Rochester and the Finger Lakes.
Observing that the U.S. bishops have cited participation in political life as a moral obligation, "a face-to-face visit with a legislator is the most effective way to participate," he remarked.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Those interested in attending Catholics at the Capitol Day should contact their regional justice-and-peace representative: Kathy Dubel (Chemung, Schuyler and Tioga), 607-734-9784, ext. 2135, or email@example.com; Jack Balinsky (Livingston), 585-328-3228, ext. 1323, or firstname.lastname@example.org; Marvin Mich (Monroe), 585-546-7220, ext. 7021, or email@example.com; Ruth Marchetti (Monroe), 585-546-7220, ext. 7099, or firstname.lastname@example.org; Lynda Lowin (Steuben), 607-776-8085, ext. 217, or email@example.com; Laurie Konwinski (Tompkins, Seneca, Cayuga, Ontario and Yates), 607-272-5062 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Deacon Tim Sullivan (Wayne), 315-331-4867 or email@example.com. For more details, visit www.nyscatholic.org.