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Letter from Bishops of NYS to Senators Schumer and Gillibrand re: Radical Federal Abortion Bill


Following is the text of a letter sent from the Timothy Cardinal Dolan and the Diocesan Bishops of New York State to U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand regarding the so-called “Women’s Health Protection Act.” To view a PDF of the original letters, click HERE.

September 29, 2021

Dear Senator,

As the Bishops of the eight Catholic dioceses of the State of New York, we write to express our unified and staunch opposition to S1975/HR3755, the “Women’s Health Protection Act,” a piece of legislation that would impose upon the entire nation a policy of unrestricted abortion on demand, for any reason, at any point in pregnancy, going well beyond the parameters of Roe v. Wade and subsequent Supreme Court decisions.

We are under no illusions. We know that on the matter of abortion policy, our views are radically disparate from yours. Nevertheless, we believe we have an obligation to speak out as a voice for the unborn, as well as for pregnant mothers who deserve so much more than this bill offers them. This legislation sends a message to women that abortion is their only option and their best hope, that it is something to be promoted and celebrated.

The truth is that abortion is something to be mourned, and it is often the most agonizing decision a woman will ever make. We believe our government should be offering pregnant women all of their options and the support services they need to empower them to choose to carry their babies to term, raise their families with dignity, or offer their child to a home which can appropriately and lovingly care for that child. Our public policies should reflect these priorities.

Here in New York State, our state legislature enacted the “Reproductive Health Act” in 2019, enshrining in state statute a policy of unlimited abortion on demand throughout nine months of pregnancy. We expressed our profound opposition at the time, and we continue to grieve for the mothers and infants harmed by this law.

But a majority of states in this great country have enacted laws to the contrary: policies to allow parents to be notified when their minor daughter is considering abortion; to provide informed consent to pregnant women; to prohibit state taxpayer funding of abortion; to require health and safety regulations in clinics; to require licensure and certification of abortion providers. All of these policies are allowable under Roe and subsequent cases. Yet all such policies would be invalidated in one fell swoop by Congressional passage of S1975. This authoritarian federal overreach undermines the will of the people through their elected state representatives, and does not bode well for our democracy.

Moreover, S1975 may very well nullify New York’s strong Civil Rights Law protection for health care professionals who do not wish to be involved in abortion, a law which so many rely upon to exercise their moral values and religious freedom. Is this how we want to repay our heroic health care workers who have served so valiantly throughout the ongoing pandemic?

In closing, we strongly urge you to reject this legislation and work to protect and strengthen the fundamental human rights of mothers and children.

Very Truly Yours,

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York

Most Rev. Edward B. Scharfenberger
Bishop of Albany

Most Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio
Bishop of Brooklyn

Most Rev. Michael W. Fisher
Bishop of Buffalo

Most Rev. Terry R. LaValley
Bishop of Ogdensburg

Most Rev. Salvatore R. Matano
Bishop of Rochester

Most Rev. John O. Barres
Bishop of Rockville Centre

Most Rev. Douglas J. Lucia
Bishop of Syracuse

Statement on Abortion Expansion Act

Following is a statement from the New York State Catholic Conference, which represents the Bishops of New York State in public policy matters:

The failure of a last-ditch hostile amendment to try to effect passage of the Abortion Expansion Act is a remarkable victory for unborn children, as well as vulnerable women and girls who so often face unrelenting societal and family pressure to abort. The result is, quite literally, the answer to prayer. More accurately, it is the answer to millions of prayers by men, women and children of every faith from every section of the state who believe in the inalienable right to life of the baby in the womb.

We are grateful to Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) for his steadfast opposition to this bill, and to the members of his Republican conference who were united with him in that position, as well as to the two pro-life Democrats who denied the abortion proponents a majority in the Senate. We are grateful, too, for those courageous and principled Republicans and Democrats in the Assembly who voted against abortion expansion despite it being a losing cause in that chamber. This victory is shared with them as well, and they should know that pro-life New Yorkers will remember their vote. More

Abortion lobby still pushing the “Reproductive Health Act”

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

Now that the state budget has been adopted, the New York State Legislature turns its attention to other policy matters, and their 2012 Session is not scheduled to end until June 21, a full two months away. Abortion advocacy groups are turning up the heat to move the so-called “Reproductive Health Act,” an extreme and unnecessary piece of legislation.

NARAL-NY led a lobby day in Albany earlier this week.  And “Clergy for Choice,” a branch of Family Planning Advocates, was also in Albany. (How odd that when religious voices advocate against abortion we are accused of violating the separation of church and state, but when religious voices advocate in favor of abortion, there appear to be no constitutional problems…)

The Senate sponsor of the RHA, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D- Westchester), is planning to formally “petition” the Senate to move her bill (S.2844/A.6112) out of the Senate Rules Committee.  This is a very complicated process under the Senate Rules, one which she cannot begin until April 26, and one that requires her to get 38 Senators’ signatures on the petition in order for it to be successful. Please help ensure that your Senator does not sign this petition.  Continue to voice your opposition to the RHA.  You can do so here.

Pregnancy Centers ‘Study’

Memorandum of Opposition

Re: A5499 Glick / S470 Hoylman
In relation to pregnancy centers

The above-referenced legislation would authorize the New York State Commissioner of Health to conduct a study and issue a report on the impact of pro-life pregnancy centers in the state. The pre-determined outcome of the “study” is that such services are too “limited” in denying pregnant women access to abortion.

The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation and urges a negative vote. More

Emergency Contraception on University Campuses

Memorandum of Opposition

Re: S5633 Parker
With regard to “Emergency Contraception”

The above-referenced bill would require every public college and university in New York State to provide information to promote the use of “emergency contraception” (EC) drugs by students.

The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation.

Since the federal Food & Drug Administration has approved distribution of EC over-the-counter in drugstores, and the Medicaid program and health insurers in New York State are required to cover the costs, there is now virtually unlimited access to these drugs.


2019 End-of-Session Round-Up

Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany watches the Assembly debate on the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act from the chamber’s gallery June 19, 2019.
(Franchesca Caputo/The Evangelist)

The New York State Legislature wrapped up the 2019 session in the early morning hours of June 21. The session was among the most active in memory, as the new Democratic majority in the state Senate, joined with the Democratic Assembly majority and the Democratic Governor to take on many issues that had previously been staunchly opposed by Republicans. Below is a synopsis of major issues tracked by the Catholic Conference and their outcome.


Breaking up the Women’s Equality Act

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

Today some of the most ardent defenders of Governor Cuomo’s 10-point “Women’s Equality Act” (WEA) called for the passage of one of the individual planks of that Act as a stand-alone bill. This is pretty significant, considering that less than a year ago these same women were demanding “ten or none!”

The particular bill in question is a human trafficking victim protection act. Democratic pro-choice Assembly members Amy Paulin, Aileen Gunther, Barbara Clark and Gabriela Rosa passionately condemned sex trafficking and said all efforts must be made to end the horrific scourge. That includes separating it out from the omnibus 10-point WEA and “ending the politics,” they said.

Wow. We’ve been saying that for more than a year now. The Senate passed each of the nine individual women’s bills (including the sex trafficking measure) last June, but did not pass the unnecessary and dangerous abortion expansion. And all nine died in the Assembly chamber, primarily due to the staunch opposition of the Democratic female members. Even Governor Cuomo was willing to break up his own bill last year.

Let’s pray that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver hears the pleas of these lawmakers and allows at least this one bill to stand on its own. It definitely has enough bi-partisan support to pass, and by increasing penalties and giving more tools to prosecutors, it really could have a huge impact on the lives of so many young, vulnerable girls who are sold like slaves and exploited in unspeakable ways.

The only dissension comes from the pro-abortion lobby group NARAL, which says the bills should remain linked. Lawmakers should ignore their shrill and obstructionist voice.

Public Witness for Life

by Kathleen M. GallagherIMG_1365

Thanks to all the pro-life New Yorkers who showed up at the Capitol last evening to protest abortion expansion in New York State. Hundreds and hundreds of them packed West Capitol Park and lined the streets with signs asking our government officials, “Can’t we love them both?”  The event was planned by the coalition New Yorkers for Life and drew in individuals and groups from all across the state united in opposition to the governor’s plan to expand late-term abortion.

Some press coverage of the event can be found here and here.

I was particularly moved by the diversity of the crowd: young and old, black, white and Hispanic, Democrat and Republican, male and female, Evangelical, Catholic and Jewish, from upstate and down, people from all walks of life. Everyone there was an integral part of that melting pot, blending together as one harmonious whole with a common goal: stopping abortion expansion and offering pregnant women life-affirming options.

I went home with the knowledge that I was part of something big and meaningful and blessed. Thanks to all who came and witnessed, for your sacrifice, commitment and prayers.

Statement in Response to Gov. Cuomo’s Counsel

Yesterday, Mylan Denerstein, counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, issued yet another essay defending the governor’s abortion expansion bill and accusing the opposition of being “outrageous and disingenuous.” In fact, the Catholic Bishops and other opponents have been very clear and honest in expressing opposition. And, yet again, she makes statements defending the substance of a bill that they have declined to make public.

While much of the essay repeats her previous assertions, she does add one new line of argument, insisting that the governor’s plan to allow non-physicians to perform abortions would not change existing law. She states, “New York State law and regulations currently allow non-physician medical professionals (e.g. physician assistants) to perform the procedure in certain circumstances. Again, there is no change to that whatsoever.”

In fact, New York State law specifically says that only a “duly licensed physician” may perform an abortion. The bill known as the Reproductive Health Act (S.438) specifically repeals that language and replaces it with “licensed health care practitioner,” a category much broader than physician. Further, there are no regulations of which we are aware that would or could override that very clear language in the state’s Penal Law.

Is Ms. Denerstein being intentionally misleading or is she actually aware of physician assistants performing surgical induced abortions despite the clear prohibition in the Penal Law?

We invite her to clarify her remarks, and we respectfully ask her to reveal where these abortions by physician assistants are being performed in New York State and explain to health care consumers exactly how this could possibly be legal under existing state law.

It is becoming clear that the governor will eventually release a bill that contains changes to bills previously introduced. It is also clear, given the intentionally confusing language of Ms. Denerstein’s statements, that the ultimate bill will be intended to be as misleading as her statements have been. We will not be caught off guard and we do not believe the members of the Legislature, which has not accepted the previous versions of this bill, will be either.

The Catholic Conference represents New York State’s Bishops in matters of public policy.

Statement regarding mandated reporting of sexual abuse by clergy

Contrary to recent published reports, the New York State Catholic Conference has never opposed bills adding clergy to the list of mandated reporters for child sexual abuse. Since the bills were originally introduced in the New York State Legislature in 2002, we have consistently and publicly supported the concept. At the request of the sponsors of competing bills in the two houses, we have never taken a position on one bill over the other. According to The New York Times, March 26, 2002:

“At this time, we don’t anticipate commenting on the specifics of any mandatory reporting legislation,” said Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference. “In our conversations with the sponsors of both houses, we’ve urged them to act in the best interest of our children, the state’s children.” More