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Pro-life advocates gathered in silent witness near a Planned Parenthood site last year in Smithtown, N.Y. A state abortion law would allow more health practitioners to provide abortion and remove state restrictions on late-term abortions.
Pro-life advocates gathered in silent witness near a Planned Parenthood site last year in Smithtown, N.Y. A state abortion law would allow more health practitioners to provide abortion and remove state restrictions on late-term abortions.
Photo Credit: Gregory A. Shemitz | Long Island Catholic

Bishop calls newly passed N.Y. abortion bill ‘Death Star’

Legislature passed bill that drops some restrictions on when and by who abortions can be performed

ALBANY, N.Y. — Albany’s Catholic bishop had urged New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stop the “Death Star” as he called a bill in the state Legislature to expand state law on abortion that had the full backing of Cuomo, a Catholic.

On Jan. 22, the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe decision legalizing abortion nationwide, the legislature passed the Reproductive Health Act, or RHA, and Cuomo signed it into law. After the measure was introduced the week of Jan. 7, the governor had promised it would pass both houses within the first 30 days of the legislative session.

Albany Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger had addressed the bill and Cuomo’s support for it in in an open letter to the governor published Jan. 19 at evangelist.org, the website of The Evangelist, Albany’s diocesan newspaper.

“Although in your recent State of the State address you cited your Catholic faith and said we should ‘stand with Pope Francis,’ your advocacy of extreme abortion legislation is completely contrary to the teachings of our pope and our Church,” the bishop said.

“Once truth is separated from fiction and people come to realize the impact of the bill, they will be shocked to their core,” he stated. “By that time, however, it may be too late to save the countless lives that will be lost or spare countless women lifelong regret.”

“The so-called Reproductive Health Act (RHA) will expand abortion under the pretenses of choice and progress, which, in fact, it will do little to enhance,” Bishop Scharfenberger wrote in his letter. “At the same time, 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.”

The Albany bishop’s open letter came two days after a joint statement from all the state’s Catholic bishops decrying the measure. “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” of the measure becoming law, the bishops stated.

They renewed their commitment to provide “the resources and services of our charitable agencies and health services resources” to assist pregnant women in need and support them and their families after the birth.

In his letter in The Evangelist, Bishop Scharfenberger wrote that despite what supporters claim, the Reproductive Health Act “goes far beyond Roe v. Wade in its aggressive extremism.”

He outlined several provisions:

• “Granting nondoctors permission to perform abortions does nothing to advance the security and health of women.”

• “Condoning coerced or involuntary abortions by repealing criminal sanctions even in cases where a perpetrator seeks to make his partner ‘un-pregnant’ through an act of physical violence does not represent any kind of progress in the choice, safety or health of women.”

• “Removing protection for an infant accidentally born alive during an abortion is abject cruelty, something most people of conscience would deem inhumane for even a dog or cat.”

• “Finally, allowing late-term abortions is nothing less than a license to kill a pre-born child at will.”

The bishop addressed Cuomo: “It is very difficult to understand how you can align yourself with Pope Francis and so vehemently advocate such profoundly destructive legislation.”

Bishop Scharfenberger also expressed the concern being voiced by pro-life leaders in the state, that “if abortion is deemed a fundamental right in New York state,” the consequences for the pro-life movement could be dire.

First elected governor in 2010, Cuomo was re-elected in 2014 on a campaign that included support for gay rights and women’s rights. It was that year he first declared “pro-life conservatives have no place” in New York. He won a third term last November.

Bishop Scharfenberger questioned the view that expanding abortion represents progress by moving “a society working to make abortion ‘rare’ to one that urges women to ‘shout your abortion’ as some advocates of this bill boldly announce.”

Society can and must do better, he said, adding that Pope Francis reminds people of faith that their mission is “to support the lives of all, especially the voiceless, the most vulnerable and marginalized.” He stated leaders must not “bequeath to our children a culture of death, but together build a more humane society for the lives of all of our fellow citizens.”

“Mr. Cuomo, do not build this Death Star,” Bishop Scharfenberger concluded.

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