Through the years, I have asked you intermittently to pay special attention to proposed legislation that would be at odds with the moral convictions we hold so dear as Roman Catholics and to make your feelings known to our government representatives. As you know, we strive as Catholics to be not only good servants of God, but also good citizens of our communities and to practice faithful citizenship. We have not only a right, but an obligation to voice our objections when the laws of the land violate our moral convictions.
My brother bishops throughout New York state and many faithful are quite concerned about a new bill proposed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer that would, if passed, codify the destruction of human life through abortion. This is, of course, intolerable.
The governor’s bill, called the “Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act,” is being strongly opposed by the New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the bishops of New York state in Albany on governmental and related matters. Ironically, the proposal came not long after we cheered a substantial victory when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortion.
Let me highlight our objections by summarizing the main points of a recent New York State Catholic Conference Memorandum of Opposition analysis on Mr. Spitzer’s bill arguing for abortion rights, which he says in his proposal must be “protected at all costs”:
* The bill seeks to establish a “fundamental right of privacy” within New York state law, encompassing the right to “choose or refuse contraception” and the right to “bear a child or to terminate a pregnancy,” as if both “choices” were equally valid and worthy of support. Establishing this as a “fundamental right,” the state would have to take proactive steps to guarantee that abortion is available and protected.
* It seeks to ensure that abortions are legal throughout all nine months of pregnancy if they are deemed necessary to protect the life or “health” of the mother. Courts have interpreted the term “health” so broadly as to include social, economic and emotional distress factors, rendering the term meaningless. Current state law says abortions are legal in New York through 24 weeks of pregnancy (Article 125 Penal Law), but outlawed after that unless they are necessary to save a woman’s life. Because of flawed court decisions like Roe v. Wade, this law cannot be enforced, so abortion is already legal in New York through the third trimester of pregnancy for reasons of life or “health.” The governor’s plan ignores the state’s legitimate interest in protecting the life of fully formed children in the womb, and seeks statutory protection of third-trimester abortions.
* The bill also would allow post-viability abortions to be performed on an out-patient basis in clinics, endangering both women and unborn children. Moreover, the bill would not allow for the type of support facilities necessary to assist a baby who might be born alive during the course of an abortion procedure.
* The bill would remove New York’s abortion-related laws from the criminal code and place them in the public-health law, leaving regulation of abortion solely up to the medical profession. The elimination of all references to the homicide laws is part and parcel of a national abortion-advocacy campaign seeking to deny that abortion is the killing of a human being.
* The bill seeks to make abortion virtually immune from any state regulation or restriction. Reasonable regulations would not be permissible under the governor’s plan, such as parental notification for abortions performed on minor children or informing women of the risks and alternatives to the procedure.
* The bill would repeal the requirement in current law that says only doctors can perform abortions. The governor’s bill would allow any health-care practitioner to perform the procedure. This clearly puts women’s health at risk.
* The bill seeks to eliminate conscience protection in current law by requiring every institution licensed or funded by the state — including religious hospitals, agencies and schools — to support abortion, provide coverage for abortion or to perform abortions. The governor’s bill declares that “the state shall not discriminate” against the exercise of the fundamental right to abortion in the “provision of benefits, facilities, services or information.”
* Further, the bill seeks to suppress all efforts to enact an “Unborn Victims of Violence Act” by refusing to recognize the unborn child as a second crime victim in cases of assault against pregnant women. The governor’s bill would specifically label such crimes as causing “serious physical injury to the woman,” refusing even to acknowledge the unborn, viewing him or her only as an appendage of the mother’s body. Moreover, the crime of “serious physical injury to the woman” would only apply if the child died as a result of the incident — with no criminal penalty applied if an attacker caused serious but nonfatal injuries to the child.
For all of us who vehemently oppose the killing of unborn human beings, this bill is absolutely intolerable.
Kathy Gallagher, who directs pro-life activities for the state Catholic Conference, summarized the situation well in a recent article in Long Island Catholic. “The Governor has gone too far, and New Yorkers must let him know. Public opinion is clearly moving in the pro-life direction,” she wrote “The most recent poll found that 64 percent of Americans (and 70 percent of young Americans!) believe abortion should either be more strictly limited or not permitted at all. National Geographic television specials and four-dimensional ultrasound machines now empower us to marvel at infants in utero kicking their feet and sucking their thumbs. No wonder fewer physicians are willing to perform the procedure and the preponderance of hospitals want nothing to do with it. No wonder more and more women who have experienced abortion are speaking out about their trauma and regret.”
What can you do?
We ask that you help us oppose the governor’s proposal by voicing your opinion to your state representatives. In addition, if you have Internet access, you can visit www.nyscatholic.org and click on “Take Action.” You can then access a special e-mail message that you can send to the governor.
This proposal would take New York state beyond Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in America.
Please join us as we vehemently oppose this proposal.
Peace to all.