The New York State Legislature enacted the Reproductive Health Act on Jan. 22, the 46th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision. This legislation makes New York’s abortion laws among the most permissive in the nation.
“With the legislature’s passage and Governor Cuomo’s signing of the Reproductive Health Act, our beloved state has become a more dangerous one for women and their unborn babies,” the New York State Catholic Conference said in a Jan. 22 statement.
The Reproductive Health Act, which in previous iterations had stalled in the state Legislature for the last 12 years, was introduced in the state Senate and Assembly Jan. 9 and championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his Jan. 15 State of the State address.
The law expands access to abortion by eliminating current state restrictions on late-term abortions, empowering “health-care practitioners” — who may not necessarily be doctors — to perform abortions, removing protections against unwanted or coerced abortions, and removing protections for infants born alive after failed abortion attempts, according to the Catholic conference, which represents the state’s bishops on public-policy matters.
The Catholic conference successfully led opposition to the legislation for a dozen years, and this year again encouraged Catholics to speak out against the bill. , yet had expected the bill to pass now that both houses have Democratic majorities. Nonetheless, the bishops expressed their disappointment in the politicians who voted in favor of the legislation.
“Many of the state Senators and Assembly members who voted for this abortion expansion are mothers themselves, who felt their child toss, turn and kick in their womb, and delighted in the progress of their pregnancy. Many others, as well as our governor, are fathers, who held their partner’s hand as they viewed the ultrasound videos, watched their child squirm and rejoiced at the first sound of a heartbeat,” the Catholic conference stated. “Many of these same officials were themselves born into less-than-perfect conditions — poverty, health problems, disabilities, broken families. All overcame these issues to rise to leadership in our state, because their parents chose life for them.”
In its statement, the Catholic conference thanked all those who joined them in the fight to prevent “this horrendous policy” and encouraged pro-life New Yorkers to pray for conversion of the hearts of those who celebrated the law, for the lives that will be lost and for the women who will be made less safe under the new law.
The Catholic conference also encouraged Catholics to follow up with their legislators and either thank them for voting against the legislation or express their disappointment in legislators who voted in favor of it. The Catholic conference’s website — www.nyscatholic.org — contains a pre-written message that may be edited and e-mailed to legislators.
Even though the new legislation has expanded access to abortion, Catholics still can take actions to decrease the number of abortions that actually take place, according to Kathleen Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the Catholic conference. Before the legislation passed, Gallagher told the Catholic Courier that Catholics now must try to change the culture, rather than the law, and can do so by living their lives in a way that demonstrates their genuine respect for life. They may do this, for example, by praying and showing compassion both for women who find themselves facing unplanned pregnancies as well as those who have had abortions in the past, she said.