Archive for the ‘Abortion’ Category

Clarity on the Reproductive Health Act

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

It’s conceivable that some people had doubts about how much importance the Governor places on passing the radical abortion expansion plan, called the Reproductive Health Act.

Any such doubts have now been clearly removed.

The Governor appeared on a news show today and called repeatedly for “clarity” on this issue, and made perfectly clear his ardent support for legalized abortion with no restrictions.  Among his comments:

“An issue like choice I do think is binary. Do you affirm Roe v. Wade? Are you pro-choice or not?”

“You’re either pro-choice, or you’re not pro-choice. You should have a vote on the big ones. There should be a vote on choice. The women in this state have a right to know.”

Since the Governor was insisting on a “right to know” about bills that he has not yet revealed, the reporter asked when legislators and the people would be able to see and evaluate the specific proposals.  He seized upon the reporter’s phrase, “the devil is in the details”, and made clear that he would press forward for a vote on the bills, despite objections about the unavailability of specifics.  He said the following:

“Legislators sometimes don’t want to take the votes that will clarify: choice, corruption, public finance. Raise your hand! Yay or nay!”

“Often times they don’t want the bill to come to the floor for a vote because they don’t want to take the position.  What we need to do is strip away the devil is in the details as just an excuse.”

An interesting turn of phrase, “the devil is in the details”.  He surely is, when the details of the Reproductive Health Act include such evils as late term abortions with no legal limitations, non-doctors performing surgical abortions, risky late-term abortions being done in stand-alone clinics and not hospitals, threats to freedom of conscience, more wounded and hurt men and women, and a likely increase in the 100,000+ abortions that already take place in New York.

This episode has certainly added some “clarity” to the debate over the Reproductive Health Act.  It’s now even more clear that there’s a grave danger that this radical bill will be pushed through the Legislature, and that the Culture of Death will further advance in our State.

Join in Prayer for Life

Friday, April 12th, 2013

In his great encyclical, The Gospel of Life, Blessed Pope John Paul emphasized that the struggle to promote a genuine culture of life has to be fought on several fronts.  We are certainly called to defend life in the public square, to resist any law that fails to respect the basic human right to life.  This aspect of the pro-life cause tends to gain the most attention, but it is actually not the most important way in which we seek to transform our culture.

The most important ways to build a culture of life is to serve those in need, and to celebrate life, particularly through prayer.

And so, on Monday April 15, at 5 p.m., in the midst of the ongoing battle to prevent the New York State government from enacting the radical Reproductive Health Act, we will travel to Albany once again.  Our aim this time is not to lobby our legislators, to offer reasoned arguments against the expansion of abortion.

This time, we are making our pilgrimage to Albany to join in the Candlelight Vigil for Life, sponsored by the new coalition, New Yorkers for Life, of which the Church is a member.  This is not a political event.  Our aim is to join in prayer.  We will pray for healing for those whose lives have been harmed by abortion.  We will pray for conversion in the hearts of our Governor and legislators.  We will pray that they will turn their paths away from this immoral and unjust law.  And we will pray for courage and assistance for all those who are vulnerable to abortion.

If you are able, perhaps you can make travel to our state’s capital to join us.  If you can’t maybe you can pause for a few minutes from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m, to be in solidarity with us in prayer.

Our society is deeply wounded by a lack of respect for life.  There are millions of people who have been wounded by offenses against life.  Our world needs healing, which only God can provide.  We will pray on Monday for that healing, for conversion of hearts, and for a transformation of our culture.

Why We Continue to Resist the Reproductive Health Act

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

One of the arguments that we are hearing from proponents of the Reproductive Health Act — a proposal that would expand abortion in New York even beyond its current abominable levels — is that the bill is nothing more than a “mere codification” of federal law.

There are many problems with this “mere codification” argument.  First of all, it is factually false.   The Reproductive Health Act (both the actual one introduced in the Legislature, and any one that is likely to be introduced as part of a “Women’s Equality Act”) would significantly expand abortion.  For my explanation of how it would do so, check out my previous blog posts.

We also resist this measure because it is a distraction from an authentic women’s public policy agenda — easier adoption laws and procedures, better access to day care, full funding for programs that offer alternatives to abortion, etc.  Abortion already hurts women, men, and society — and the Reproductive Health Act will make the problem worse.

But even more fundamental to our opposition to the bill is the understanding that current federal law on abortion is evil.  It is a terrible injustice, it is a deplorable violation of basic human rights, and it is an ugly stain on our society’s character.  We cannot accept or even obey such laws.  We have “a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection” (Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae 73).  Those who formulate our laws have a special obligation to protect the helpless, and anyone who engages in propaganda in favor of such a law or votes for it is committing a sin against justice and the common good (U.S. Bishops, Catholics in Political Life).

Anyone who doubts where the expansion of abortion will lead, needs to consider two recent incidents.  The first is the trial of the abortionist Kermit Gosnell, whose late-term abortion clinic was a chamber of horrors.  The testimony at trial is a catalog of inhumanity, in the the casual violence and degradation of abortion as it is actually practiced in the real world.

If the Reproductive Health Act is passed, non-doctors would be permitted to do abortions, and risky late-term procedures will be done at non-hospitals — and we should not be surprised if a Gosnell-like event takes place here.

The second is the testimony of a Planned Parenthood flack, at a legislative hearing in Florida.  The lobbyist was opposing a proposal that would grant legal protections to any baby who is born alive during the course of an abortion.  Under questioning, she refused to acknowledge that the newly-born living child should automatically be given health care, and insisted that it would all be left up to the mother and the doctor — in other words, that a “post-birth abortion” would be an acceptable alternative.

Now, we all know that Planned Parenthood is a deeply evil organization, and nothing should surprise us from them.  But this incident, together with the Gosnell story, highlights the inevitable effect of abortion on everything it touches — life is devalued, morality is debased, people’s hearts are hardened, and the medical and legal professions are corrupted.  Passing the Reproductive Health Act would only add to this de-evolution of our our civilization, deeper into a Culture of Death.

We need to see abortion law, and the Reproductive Health Act, for what it really is.  And we need to take to heart what Pope Francis said the other day on his Twitter feed:

We must not believe the Evil One when he tells us that there is nothing we can do in the face of violence, injustice and sin.

We will continue to resist the Reproductive Health Act, or any similar measure that would “merely codify” the injustice of abortion in our laws.  Join the effort!

What Ever Happened to “Safe”?

Monday, March 4th, 2013

For a long time, apologists and advocates for legal abortion liked to say that they believed that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare”.

Well, we know that they’ve given up on “rare”.  And they certainly are unconditionally committed to “legal”.

But it’s astonishing that they now seem to have given up on “safe”.

Consider two elements of the proposed “Reproductive Health Act”, which is being treated by the pro-abortion movement as their Holy Grail legislation.

Currently, New York law permits only doctors to perform abortions.  That’s a reasonable, common-sense provision that has been the law for many decades.  Until recently it was the law across the United States, and it has never been called into question by a court on constitutional grounds.

The Reproductive Health Act would remove that section of the law, and instead permit abortions (prior to the third trimester) to be done by any “qualified, licensed health care practitioner acting within the scope of his or her practice”.  This term isn’t defined in the RHA, but it is defined elsewhere in New York law to include: doctors, physician assistants, chiropractors, dentists, physical therapists, nurses, podiatrists, optometrists, ophthalmic dispensers, psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, speech pathologists and audiologists.  Thanks to that “scope of practice” clause in RHA, the decision to allow any of these persons to do abortions would be left entirely to the discretion of the New York State government, or private medical certification organizations — without any further consultation with the Legislature or the people of our state.

So here’s the question: 

How can it be “safe” to allow non-doctors, who have far less education, experience, and qualifications than physicians, to perform invasive surgery on women?

A second troubling provision of RHA relates to late-term abortions.  Current New York law requires those procedures to be done only in hospitals.  This is another common-sense safety requirement, since late-term abortions are inherently more risky for the mother.  It’s also necessary to give effect to the current law that a baby born alive after an abortion must be given medical assistance to sustain her life.

Instead, RHA would allow post-viability abortions to be performed on an outpatient basis in stand-alone clinics.   This is potentially very dangerous, since these clinics lack the resources to immediately address any threats to the woman’s life.   In many cases, the delay involved in calling an ambulance and transporting a gravely wounded mother can prove fatal.  Clinics also lack the specialized medical staff and equipment needed to provide neo-natal life support to any baby who survives the abortion.

So here’s another question:

How can it be “safe” to allow late-term abortions in facilities that lack emergency equipment and specialized staff that are needed to address grave threats to the lives of the mother and her child?

This is where we are in the debate over legal abortion in New York State, thanks to the Reproductive Health Act.  And it leads us to ask another question:

Is our society at the point where it’s so committed to maximizing the “legal” that it has given up on the “rare” — and is now sacrificing the “safe”?

What About the Other Women?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

In support of the radical abortion expansion bill, the “Reproductive Health Act”, advocates have been arguing that the bill would make no changes in current New York law. Instead, they argue that it’s an integral part of a “women’s equality agenda”.

We certainly support most, if not all, of the items on the Governor’s “women’s equality” agenda. But the thing is, we’re looking at making things better for all women — and making sure the law protects all women.

Unfortunately, the supporters of the RHA are leaving a lot of women out of the “women’s equality” agenda — the unborn ones.

Current New York law recognizes society’s strong and legitimate interest in protecting unborn women. It criminalizes a direct attack on an unborn child, outside of the context of a lawful abortion — like domestic violence incidents where the assailant is trying to cause a miscarriage. And even in the case of abortion, it recognizes that unborn children are worthy of some protections, such as our statute requiring that abortions be performed only by doctors, and regulations of abortion clinic practice.

That’s because the vast majority of New Yorkers, as revealed in a recent poll, understand that unborn human life is not a mere afterthought.

But the Reproductive Health Act would largely strip these protections from the law, and leave unborn children — including the women — vulnerable to domestic violence and unregulated abortion practices. The requirement that only doctors perform abortions would be eliminated, and the standard of review for abortion regulations would be raised so high that virtually nothing would pass scrutiny.  Even a ban on sex selection abortions — which deliberately target women — would almost certainly fail to satisfy the standards required by RHA.

What’s ironic is that in the 2011 State of the State Address, when speaking of future state workers, the Governor referred to them as “the unborn”. He knows what he’s talking about. And so do we.

Too bad that, in pursuit of legitimate legislative measures in support of some women, the advocates for the Reproductive Health Act are all too willing to disregard the women in the womb.

New Yorkers Speak Loud and Clear: No Abortion Expansion

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

In our efforts to oppose the Reproductive Health Act, we’ve been stressing over and over again that we already have too many abortions in New York, and that New Yorkers don’t support an expansion of abortion in our state.  A new poll not only confirms this point, but puts an exclamation mark on it.

Sponsored by the Chiaroscuro Foundation, the poll surveyed likely New York voters.  Although a majority (55%) described themselves as “pro-choice”, 66% thought that there was no need to expand access to abortion — and this number grew to 79% when they were told that we already have over 111,000 abortions in our state each year.

Only 17% approve of unlimited abortion on demand through the ninth month of pregnancy (which is the current law, thanks to the Supreme Court, and which would be confirmed by the Reproductive Health Act.); 80% disapprove of such a policy, 61% strongly.

A large majority of New Yorkers oppose the following, which would be permissible under the Reproductive Health Act:

  • 92% oppose abortion for selecting the sex of a baby;
  • 89% oppose abortion for reducing triplets or twins to a single child;
  • 75% oppose allowing non-doctors to perform abortions; and
  • 71% oppose forcing Catholic hospitals to allow abortions.
  • Large majorities also support the following reasonable regulations of abortion, all of which would be impermissible under the Reproductive Health Act:

  • 87% support providing information about options and risks to pregnant women before they make an abortion decision;
  • 78% approve of a 24-hour waiting period prior to an abortion; and
  • 76% approve of parental notification for minors’ abortions.
  • Kathy Gallagher, the director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference, summed it up best:

    “These poll results should send a strong message to government officials: New Yorkers, even those who self-identify as ‘pro-choice,’ don’t want more abortion in the state.  The public desires prudent and reasonable regulations on the abortion procedure. New Yorkers want abortion to be truly rare. Politicians promoting the radical agenda of groups like Planned Parenthood and Naral are out of step with everyday New Yorkers, be they Republican or Democrat.”

    All Catholics — indeed, all people who believe that enough is enough —  should send a message to their government officials  that they oppose the Reproductive Health Act.


    Time for a Real Women’s Agenda

    Monday, February 11th, 2013

    I’ve already written a great deal about the Reproductive Health Act (see here, here and here), which has been proposed by the Governor as part of his “Women’s Equality Act”.

    One thing that has unfortunately been lost in the debate over this abortion expansion bill is that many of the other parts of the Governor’s agenda are things that most New Yorkers — including the Church — would like to support.  Things like ensuring equal pay for equal work; expanding the ability to enforce laws against sexual harassment; strengthening laws against discrimination in employment and lending (particularly against pregnant women); strengthening and enforcing current laws against sex trafficking.

    But by including the Reproductive Health Act in in the bill, the passage of other good women’s initiatives is being unnecessarily jeopardized.  We would like to see abortion taken off the table, so that the welfare of women can be addressed and promoted in a way that generates real consensus across the state.

    The Church, and other pro-life people who work at places like pregnancy services centers,  have a great deal of experience working with vulnerable women, especially those who are struggling with a crisis pregnancy.  Based on this experience, we could propose some other items to include in a real women’s agenda.  These proposals would not endanger the lives of unborn women and leave their mothers with the emotional scars of abortion.  Instead, they would enhance the welfare of the women of our state, particularly by giving encouragement and support to make the life-affirming decision to carry their babies to birth:

  • Promoting adoption by mandating parental leave equal to that provided to birth parents, and providing tax deductions or tax credits to those who adopt. A public relations campaign to encourage adoption, particularly of children with special needs and those in foster care, would also be good.
  • Providing funding for alternatives to abortion, particularly for low-income women.  For years, the government-funded Maternity & Early Childhood Foundation has been doing that on a shoestring, and the Governor’s proposed budget would eliminate all funding for this Foundation.
  • Ensuring that women have all the relevant information before making an abortion decision — bills like the “Woman’s Right to Know Act” or a bill requiring a sonogram — and a waiting period to ensure that there’s enough time to reflect.
  • Prohibiting abortion for sex selection.  This practice particularly targets female children, and is the ultimate form of discrimination against women.
  • Strengthening and enforcing New York’s anti-obscenity laws. Women are the primary victims of pornography — they are objectified and demeaned by it, and many of the women in porn are coerced or raped.
  • Helping victims of domestic violence, by giving them unpaid leave of absence from jobs, ending housing discrimination, and strengthen orders of protection.
  • Passing an unborn victims of violence act, which would permit prosecution of domestic violence criminals who target children in the womb.
  • The Governor has some good ideas for woman that shouldn’t be held back by an abortion bill that goes too far and is out of step with what New Yorkers want.  Taking the Reproductive Health Act off the table would allow people of all beliefs to unite behind a real agenda for women.

    The Reproductive Health Act and Criminal Law

    Thursday, February 7th, 2013

    As part of our efforts to educate people about the Reproductive Health Act, we have been pointing out that the bill would remove any criminal penalties for a violent attack on an unborn child.  The bill’s supporters have been countering by saying that there would still be sufficient criminal sanctions available, if RHA is passed.

    Here’s why they’re reading the law wrong.

    Current New York law criminalizes a direct attack on an unborn child outside of the context of a doctor performing an abortion with the mother’s consent.  If the unborn child is over 24 weeks of gestation, this crime would be a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison; before that, it’s a felony punishable by up to four years in jail.

    Without these criminal abortion laws, there is no way to bring a prosecution for a direct attack on an unborn child.  The reason is that New York has a “born alive” rule, under which you can only be a victim of a crime — a “person” under the law — if you are born alive.  Before that, you aren’t a “person”.  Yes, it seems absurd, but that’s been the law for many years.

    If you want a more detailed legal explanation for how this plays out, here it is — if you don’t, you can skip the next paragraph.

    The basic problem stems from the nature of the assault and homicide statutes, and the required intent elements that must be proved, when taken together with the “born alive” rule.  The assault and homicide laws are “specific intent” laws — the prosecution must prove that the assailant had “intent to cause serious physical injury to another person”.  Since an unborn child is not a “person” within the meaning of the law, no assault that is intended to harm that child can be the basis of a prosecution.  Nor can the doctrine of “transferred intent” lead to a prosecution.  That principle holds that if a person intends to assault one victim, but harms another, they are liable for injuries to the second victim.  But the assault and homicide statutes specify that the injury must be caused to the intended victim “or to a third person”. Again, since an unborn child is not a “person”, the injury to the child cannot be the basis of a criminal charge under the theory of transferred intent.  Of course, there is always the possibility of bringing charges for any injuries caused to the mother — but those are separate and distinct from the offenses directed against the unborn child, which can only be brought under the criminal abortion statutes.

    The criminal abortion statutes are reasonable and necessary, and have a long history in our law.  By having this provision, New York law shows that it has a legitimate interest in protecting unborn life, which it will defend in criminal court.  This interest has been repeatedly recognized and upheld by the Supreme Court — even in the original Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion.

    These laws are especially important because deliberate attacks on an unborn child are frequently part of a domestic violence incident.  And, not every attack on the unborn child causes some kind of physical harm to the mother.  For example, an involuntary dose of RU-486 or emergency contraception might only cause harm to the unborn child, not to the mother, and thus could not be prosecuted at all if RHA is enacted.  Think of it — a man could slip a woman a dose of EC with the intent to kill their unborn child, yet he could completely escape prosecution.

    The result of all of this is clear — without the criminal abortion statutes (which would be repealed by RHA), an assault on an unborn child cannot be the basis of a criminal charge unless there is an independent injury to the mother.  And even then, the only victim whose rights would be defended would be the mother — the child would be merely a piece of evidence at trial, not a human being who had been victimized.

    The proper way to address this flaw in the current law is not to remove the abortion provisions from the Penal Law, as RHA would.  Instead, the Legislature should enact an Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which would provide criminal penalties for assaults upon unborn children, regardless of the impact on the mother.  Thirty-six states and the federal government have these laws, and they have been upheld in the courts. The RHA may well prevent that law from ever being passed in New York State.

    The broader issue at stake here is the legal theory embodied in RHA — it treats the life and well-being of the unborn child as irrelevant, and asserts that the state is only concerned with maternal health.  This would completely abdicate the state’s legitimate interest in protecting unborn life — which has even been recognized by the Supreme Court.

    The RHA is focused solely on the mother and on ensuring her unlimited access to abortion.  The unborn child would have no legal rights, and no defense from assault, under RHA.

    Real Facts About the Governor’s Abortion Expansion Bill

    Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

    In support of Governor Cuomo’s abortion expansion plan, known as the “Reproductive Health Act”, his spokesman recently said:

    “State law needs to be updated so that it is consistent with federal standards and once and for all makes a woman’s right to choose unassailable in New York state… This is not an expansion of abortion rights. It’s a codification of existing federal law. Any suggestion to the contrary is not only baseless, but a distortion of the facts.”

    Perhaps the Governor’s staff needs to do a little legal research before they accuse people of lying about what federal law of abortion actually is.  Perhaps then they will understand how extreme the Governor’s Reproductive Health Act is.

    Unlike the Governor’s bill, federal law does not consider the right to abortion an unqualified “fundamental right”, on the same legal plane as the right to vote or political speech.  Nor does federal law maintain that all regulations of abortion must stand up to the highest standard of review by courts (“compelling state interest/strict scrutiny”).  No federal law has ever given permission to non-doctors to perform abortions.  No federal law outlaws “discrimination” against abortion in the granting of state licenses, provision of services, etc.  No federal law has virtually eliminated basic criminal penalties for involuntary or back-alley abortions.

    Yet the Governor’s bill does all that, and more.

    If the Governor really wants to codify federal law, perhaps he’ll agree to passing a partial birth abortion ban?  Or an unborn victims of violence ban, protecting unborn children from criminal assaults?   Or a restriction on taxpayer funding so that abortion on demand is not being subsidized?  Or an expansion of conscience protection for health professionals who do not wish to participate in abortions, based on their religious or moral beliefs?

    All of those provisions are current federal law.  All of those offer a higher level of protection for unborn children, compared to current New York law.  All of those, and more, have been enacted by other states, and are supported by wide majorities of Americans — laws requiring parental involvement in abortion decisions by minors, providing support for pregnancy alternatives comparable to that given to abortion clinics, requiring full informed consent (including sonograms) before an abortion, limits on late-term abortions of fully-developed children, bans on sex-selection abortions, etc.

    The fact is that all of these reasonable regulations of abortion would be impossible under the Governor’s abortion expansion plan.

    The fact is that the Governor’s plan goes far beyond federal law, far beyond common sense, and far beyond what New Yorkers want and need.

    A Tragic Polarization

    Monday, January 28th, 2013

    The annual March for Life was held on Friday, in remembrance of the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.  Several hundred thousand people joined in the largest annual civil rights demonstration in America, to witness to the cause of human life and its importance to our society.

    After the March, I had the honor of participating in a panel discussion about the pro-life cause at the National Review Institute’s Future of Conservatism Summit.  It was a very interesting conversation, covering topics such as health care, pregnancy resource centers, and the cultural and political trends in our nation.  (It was broadcast live on CSPAN, and you can watch the video here).

    The audience was very appreciative of the panel, and I got a good deal of positive feedback afterwards. That’s encouraging, because there has been a good bit of talk since the election about ejecting pro-lifers from the conservative movement — which I believe would be a disaster for American society.

    But the positive reaction of the conservative audience also reinforced in my mind a sad realization:  at this point in American history, it is inconceivable that I would be invited to have the same discussion at a conference of political liberals or progressives.

    It has been made abundantly clear that pro-lifers are really not welcome any more in the liberal wing of politics or, indeed, in most of the Democratic Party.  The platform of the national Democratic Party stated that the party opposed any restrictions on abortion; a prominent leader of the Party in New York has announced that one cannot be a Democrat without being “pro-choice”; and the President ran an aggressively and adamantly pro-abortion political campaign last year.   Although there are some notable exceptions, the pro-life Democrat is becoming an endangered species.

    This makes no sense to me.  Life is not a partisan issue — it is a question of equal justice under the law and fundamental human rights.  It is the ultimate issue of defending the little guy — as little a guy as you can get.  And traditionally, liberalism/progressivism and the Democratic Party have styled themselves as the defenders of the little guys — workers, immigrants, ethnic minorities.  They were the party of Al Smith and Sargent Shriver — two great Catholic gentlemen who were unabashed progressives and Democrats.    Even as late as the 1970’s, prominent Democrats like Ted Kennedy and Jesse Jackson were openly pro-life.

    I understand how and why this happened — it has a lot to do with the identification of abortion and sexual liberty as the centerpiece of modern feminism.  But it has polarized our nation and politics, and it is a disaster for our society.

    Last week, the President delivered his inaugural address.  In that speech, he spoke about his and his party’s concern for defending human rights by alluding to Seneca Falls (the birthplace of  women’s rights), Selma (a crucible for the civil rights movement) and Stonewall (the origin of the “gay rights” cause).

    Sadly, he had no time to mention the human rights of the unborn.  He could easily have done so, by a simple allusion to the Dred Scott decision, which excluded an entire class of human beings from the protection of the law.

    Unfortunately, in our sad polarized politics, the liberal/progressive movement, much of the Democratic Party, and the current Administration believe, as did the misguided Supreme Court in Dred Scott, that unborn children have no rights that are bound to be respected by those lucky enough to have been born.