Sweeping new abortion bill in New York: “It defies common sense”

Last week, Cardinal Timothy Dolan raised his objections to proposed abortion legislation in New York.  Now the state Catholic Conference has issued a point-by-point memo that makes clear how extreme Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal really is.  The memo below comes from the conference website. 

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Re:      The Abortion Expansion Bill
“In relation to revising existing provisions of law regarding abortions”

The above-referenced legislation may come before you as a stand-alone bill (such as S.438, Stewart-Cousins) or may be re-packaged into a multi-point “women’s agenda” as advocated by Governor Andrew Cuomo in his 2013 State of the State message. We strongly urge you to oppose this abortion expansion plan, in whatever form it may take. It is unnecessary, extreme and dangerous. For the reasons outlined below, the New York State Catholic Conference strongly opposes this legislation and urges that it be defeated.

This legislation this bill does not simply “update” New York law or codify Roe vs. Wade. It would usher in extreme and sweeping changes to abortion policy in New York State. 

  • The bill would permit unlimited late-term abortion on demand. 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.  This bill would repeal that law and insert a “health” exception, broadly interpreted by the courts to include age, economic, social and emotional factors. It is an exception that will allow more third-trimester abortions in New York State, a policy which the public strongly disapproves.  This ignores the state’s legitimate interest in protecting the lives of fully formed children in the womb, and ignores the will of a majority of New Yorkers who oppose late-term abortion.
  • The bill would endanger the lives of women by allowing non-physicians to perform abortions. While current law states that only a “duly licensed physician” may perform an abortion, this bill would allow any “licensed health care practitioner” to perform the procedure prior to viability. This dangerous and extreme change clearly puts women’s health at risk, and mirrors a national abortion strategy to permit non-doctors to perform abortions due to the declining number of physicians willing to do so.
  • The bill would preclude any future reasonable regulations of abortion. It would establish a “fundamental right of privacy” within New York State law, encompassing the right “to terminate a pregnancy,” even though the Supreme Court has rejected, numerous times, classifying abortion as a “fundamental right.”  Therefore, it is impossible to say that this legislation simply “codifies Roe vs. Wade” in New York law.  It goes well beyond Roe. The Court has said that states may regulate abortion, as long as those regulations do not place an “undue burden” on the right to an abortion. This bill says that abortion is fundamental and thus untouchable – no regulations on abortion, ever. No parental notification for minors’ abortions, no limits on taxpayer funding of abortion, no limits on late-term abortions, no informed consent for pregnant women seeking abortion. None of the commonsense regulations enacted by the vast majority of states and supported by large majorities of the public would be allowed in New York.
  • The bill endangers the religious liberty of Catholic hospitals and other institutions. While the bill contains limited conscience protection, that protection is ambiguous and inadequate and is extended only toindividual health providers who do not wish to “provide” abortions (protection that is already guaranteed by Civil Rights law.) What is not provided in the bill are protections for institutional providers, such as religious hospitals and other agencies that do not wish to be involved with abortion. The 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.”  In other words, it would permit state regulators, such as the State Health Department or State Insurance Department, to require support for abortion from any agency or institution licensed or funded by the state.
  • The bill could be used to undermine the state’s maternity programs.  In a similar way, these beneficial programs, which are working well to reduce infant mortality, could be ruled “discriminatory” for favoring childbirth over abortion, and be denied state benefits if this bill were to become law.

The abortion expansion bill is uncompromising in its terms and extremely sweeping in scope.  The bill goes against the increasingly pro-life sentiment in this country, as evidenced by the most recent Marist poll (December 2012) which found that more than 8 in 10 Americans favor significant restrictions on abortion.  The Gallup Organization (May 2011) found that only 27% of Americans believe abortion should be legal under all circumstances. The majority of American adults (61%) believe abortion should either be more strictly limited than current law or not permitted at all.

Not only does the bill defy public opinion, but it also defies common sense.  New York State remains the abortion capital of the nation with the highest abortion rate of any state. New York City’s abortion rate remains at 40%, with some geographic regions within the city at 60%.  The reality is that no woman is without ample opportunity for an abortion in New York State.  Rather than voting on a bill that will increase the tragedy of abortion, we urge policy makers to look at constructive ways to reduce abortion and truly make abortion “rare.”

We strongly urge you to oppose the abortion expansion bill.

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