Oppose Efforts to Force Faith-Based Institutions to Provide Procedures Contrary to Their Religious Beliefs

Published on November 18th, 2011

Summary

In the 2011 state legislative session, a “bi-partisan pro-choice legislative caucus” was established in New York State primarily to advocate for the “Reproductive Health Act.”  This bill seeks to establish a “fundamental right to privacy” in New York statute to guarantee that abortion and contraception are protected and available.  Such a ‘fundamental right’ could hold ominous consequences for religious health care providers.

Conference Position

The Conference believes that religious-affiliated health care providers must have the right to operate and provide services in accordance with their mission statements and fundamental ethical principles. Threats to religious liberty such as the “Reproductive Health Act” will be vigorously opposed.

Rationale

If enacted into law, the Reproductive Health Act could be used to compel all hospitals to allow abortions, including religious hospitals and others whose mission statements oppose it.  It could also force all insurance plans, including those purchased by Catholic employers, to cover abortion.

The bill proposes a new Public Health Law §1200 that states “The legislature declares that every individual has a fundamental right of privacy with respect to certain personal reproductive decisions…”  The bill goes on to provide that “Every female has the fundamental right to determine the course of her pregnancy, which includes the right to bear a child or to terminate a pregnancy…” and “The state shall not discriminate against the exercise of the rights set forth in section twelve hundred of this article in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services or information.”

Taken together, these provisions would empower state regulatory agencies (e.g. State Department of Health, State Education Department and State Insurance Department) to take the necessary steps to ensure that there is no “discrimination” against this “fundamental right” in all state programs and decisions.  As a result, all licensing and regulatory decisions, including the granting of ‘certificates of need’ to health care facilities, the certification of health insurance plans, and the appropriation of state funds would have to ensure that the fundamental right to abortion is respected.

The dangerous consequences of such a broad legal change can be seen in developments in Massachusetts, where the highest court in the state recognized same sex marriage as a fundamental right.  The state government in Massachusetts refused to certify an adoption agency run by Catholic Charities in that state, for its refusal to violate fundamental teaching by placing foster children in same-sex marriage homes.  The state said the Church agency “discriminated” in violation of the state’s human rights law.  The tragic consequence of this series of events was the closing of Catholic Charities-sponsored adoption services in Boston.

You can download this document, Oppose Threats To Religious Liberty, in PDF form.

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