Bishop Brands N.Y.’s New Abortion Law ‘Death Star’; NARAL Sees It as New National Model

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo news conference

Americans United for Life CEO Catherine Glenn Foster told the Catholic News Agency in early January that under Gov. Andrew Cuomo the operators of New York’s nail salons would face stricter regulations than people running abortion clinics in the state.

And then came the Reproductive Health Act. The legislation allows nurse practitioners and physician assistants to perform abortions and permits late-abortion at any time to protect the mother’s life or health, as well as in the case of fetal inviability.

The legislation also decriminalizes abortion, sliding it out of the New York penal code and under the jurisdiction of the state’s health department.

New York state Republicans have been able to block this proposal for the past 12 years. But with Democrats winning control of the legislature in November, they pushed it through not long after their legislative seats were warm.

Five days before it became the law of their state, the bishops of New York state spoke out against the expected approval of the RHA.

“Words are insufficient to describe the profound sadness we feel at the contemplated passage of New York State’s new proposed abortion policy,” the bishops said in a statement Jan. 17.  “We mourn the unborn infants who will lose their lives, and the many mothers and fathers who will suffer remorse and heartbreak as a result.”

Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany called on Cuomo, as a fellow Catholic, to veto the Reproductive Health Act, legislation the bishop branded “the Death Star.”

“Once truth is separated from fiction and people come to realize the impact of the bill, they will be shocked to their core,” he said in an open letter to Cuomo published Jan. 19 on the website of The Evangelist, Albany’s diocesan newspaper.

“This legislation threatens to rupture the communion between the Catholic faith and those who support the RHA even while professing to follow the church, something that troubles me greatly as a pastor,” Bishop Scharfenberger also wrote.

Those words were wasted on Cuomo. The Democrat didn’t lose a minute. He signed the new law into effect immediately after it was approved by the New York Legislature on Jan. 22, the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

"In the face of a federal government intent on rolling back Roe v. Wade and women's reproductive rights, I promised that we would pass this critical legislation within the first 30 days of the new session – and we got it done," Cuomo said.

"Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman's right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion,” Cuomo added. “With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body.”

New York State Right to Life said in a statement on its Facebook page that the RHA was “an extreme bill sold to the public saying it merely ‘updates’ New York’s law, which is far from true.”

Is New York outside the mainstream on the abortion issue? Maybe not. At least it won’t be if the pro-choice group NARAL has anything to say about it.

NARAL proclaimed New York was not only “a leader in reproductive rights,” but also “sets the example for other states to follow.”

“This victory is also an affirmation of the legislative progress made possible by electoral gains driven by the pro-choice majority in New York and across the country,” said NARAL Vice President Adrienne Kimmell.

And with that, NARAL kicked off its “Reality of Roe” campaign to “educate Americans in all 50 states about the current threat to the legal right to abortion and reproductive freedom in their communities, and to mobilize its 2 million members to take action in support of protecting and expanding access.”

Ilyse Hogue, the president of NARAL, said her organization plans to build on the gains made by progressives and liberals in state legislatures to block conservative politicians’ threats to abortion rights.

“Anti-choice politicians and the extreme, out-of-touch institutions that put them in power are hellbent on gutting Roe, and the U.S. Supreme Court is now tipped in their favor,” Hogue said. “In some states, laws are already dangerously restrictive and now, they stand ready to criminalize abortion completely, punishing women and providers as they do so.”

“The same forces that helped us elect record gains in pro-choice legislators a few short months ago stand ready to fight back with all we have,” Hogue added.

Meanwhile, back in Albany, Cuomo’s not done yet. He said earlier this month that the RHA wouldn’t be enough. He also wants to add a new provision to the state constitution that would “protect a woman’s right to control her own reproductive health.”

"We'll put it on the ballot, we'll write it into the constitution,” Cuomo said during an appearance in New York. “And we'll be able to say we have protected women's rights in a way no one else has before.”