A statewide coalition of pro-life organizations hopes to draw large crowds to Albany April 15 to show widespread opposition to a proposed expansion to the state’s abortion laws.
The coalition, called New Yorkers for Life, is organizing a candlelight vigil at 5 p.m. that day in West Capitol Park, outside the State Capitol Building in Albany.
"We are looking to draw on the strength of our spiritual community and tradition to make a difference," said Deacon Claude Lester, director of faith formation for St. Benedict Parish in Canandaigua and Bloomfield, who is helping to coordinate transportation to the vigil.
The coalition opposes a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to change New York’s laws on abortion. In his 2013 state of the state address, Cuomo called for enacting a Reproductive Health Act as part of a 10-point Women’s Equality Act, linking abortion to new proposals on pay equity, domestic violence protections and ending harassment, discrimination and human trafficking.
Cuomo has not released details of a possible abortion bill that he supports. However, currently pending in the state Senate is a version of a Reproductive Health Act that has been proposed annually since 2007 (S438-2013).
"The very radical nature of (S438-2013) does not reflect the will of the people of New York state," said Jann Armantrout, diocesan life-issues coordinator.
S438-2013 would remove abortion from the state’s criminal code and insert it into the state’s public-health law. It also would allow abortions through all nine months of pregnancy if deemed necessary to protect a mother’s "life or health." Currently state law, which is unenforceable under federal court decisions, only allows abortion after 24 weeks if a woman’s life is at stake.
"What the governor has been suggesting is that abortion should be legal through all nine months, that nonphysicians should be able to complete abortions, that there will be fewer rules to regulate the clinics, opening the doors to situations such as we saw in Pennsylvania where women have died and post-viability infants have died, and Catholic hospitals and other faith-based institutions may be called upon to perform abortions to keep their licenses," Armantrout said. "So there are big issues at stake."
She added that the pro-life community is very concerned that the legislation could be pushed through with no advanced notice or debate.
"The governor has said he may use a memo of necessity, as he did with gun-control legislation, which really precludes participation by citizens," Armantrout said. "He needs to know that is not acceptable to New Yorkers."
The message of necessity allows the state Legislature to skip the otherwise-mandatory three-day waiting period before legislators can take action on legislation.
A local group is arranging bus transportation to the vigil from a handful of locations across the Diocese of Rochester. The bus ride will cost $25 per adult and $15 per student, which does not include any food or beverages.
Buses will leave the diocese at 11 a.m., arriving in Albany at 2 p.m. Participants will visit with legislators at 2:30 p.m., attend the vigil at West Capitol Park at 5 p.m. and board buses to return home at 6:45 p.m. Buses will arrive back at 11 p.m.
To reserve a spot on a bus, or to arrange car pooling by private car, e-mail Albanyvigil@dor.org or call 585-750-7524.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Details about the vigil are at www.NewYorkersforLife.org.