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Abortion Expansion Act (Reproductive Health Act)

Memorandum of Opposition

Re: S.240 Krueger, Stewart-Cousins / A.21 Glick, Heastie
In relation to abortion expansion

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This legislation was recently introduced and is being fast-tracked for legislative votes. Despite how it is framed by proponents, this bill is not a simple update of New York’s laws. It is an extreme expansion of current state abortion policy. The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this bill, and urges you to vote in the negative.

It’s a late-term abortion expansion.

The primary objective of this legislation is to expand late-term abortion.  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 the Penal Law references to abortion and insert a “health” exception into the newly-written Public Health Law. Such a “health” exception has been broadly interpreted by the courts (Doe vs. Bolton 410 US 179, 1973) to include age, economic, social and emotional factors. As a result, this bill will allow abortion for any of these reasons at any time during a pregnancy, including into the ninth month.

Thankfully, New York’s induced abortion numbers have been steadily decreasing, from 118,381 reported in 2008 to 86,627 reported in 2015, according to the most recent vital statistics compiled by the NYS Department of Health. But New York still has the highest abortion rate of any state in the country, with double the national average, and almost 2,000 of these abortions are at 20 weeks gestation or greater.

We believe New York policy should move in the opposite direction of this legislation and aim to decrease the incidence of late-term abortion.

It empowers non-doctors to perform abortions.

Current New York State statutes and regulations are clear in requiring that only licensed physicians may perform abortions in New York. No federal law has ever given permission to non-doctors to perform abortions. This legislation is very specific in reversing these protections, by stating that any health care practitioner authorized under Title Eight of the Education Law may perform an abortion. Practitioners certified under Title Eight include nurse practitioners, physician assistants, midwives, as well as other non-physicians. This bill would allow the Education Department to authorize any of these non-doctors to do both chemical and surgical abortions.

We believe that empowering lesser-trained and less-experienced non-physicians to perform abortions is hazardous for women and infants.

It eliminates protections for pregnant women and their unborn children.

Moving abortion from the Penal Law to the Public Health Law is a major policy shift that removes accountability for those who would harm unborn children outside the context of medical termination of pregnancy. The crime of “abortion” is the only place in New York law that allows for additional criminal charges for violent attacks against pregnant women that are intended to — and result in — harm to the unborn children.

This legislation would remove current Penal Law protections for pregnant women in cases of coerced or unwanted abortion (Penal Law Sections 125.05, 125.40 and 125.45). Repealing these laws – and proposing no penalties whatsoever for violation of the proposed new law — does a grave disservice to pregnant women, the very-much-wanted children they carry, and any possibility of justice for them when crimes are committed against them.

Such attacks occur with some frequency in cases of domestic violence. Just last month a Gansevoort, New York, man was arrested after aggressively pushing his fists into the belly of a 26-week pregnant woman and attempting to cause her miscarriage. In addition to the misdemeanor of reckless endangerment, he was rightly charged with abortion in the second degree, a felony. That charge would be removed from our statutes under this bill.

It could compel participation in abortion.

Section 2 of this bill [proposed new Public Health Law Section 2599-aa (2)] would ordain abortion as a “fundamental right,” and declare that that state may not “discriminate, deny or interfere with” this right. The right to abortion could thus supersede even the right of conscience. We are concerned that doctors and other health providers may be compelled to perform abortions or risk losing their license to practice. Likewise, we are troubled that medical facilities, even religious ones, could be forced to allow abortions on site or risk fines, penalties, loss of funding/operational certificates or other punishment.

It jeopardizes live-born children.

Currently, NYS Public Health Law Section 4164 gives full legal protection to any child who might (mistakenly) be born alive as the result of an abortion. It also requires a second doctor to be available during a late-term abortion to help give medical care to any such child. Shockingly, this legislation repeals these protections. The right to abortion should never extend so far as to justify the denial of fundamental civil rights and protections to born, living, breathing human children.


As outlined above, we believe this legislation would only increase the tragedy of abortion in our state. We strongly urge you to oppose this legislation when it comes before you for a vote.

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.

State Aid to Planned Parenthood

Memorandum of Opposition

Re: S.470 Rivera / A.1080 Glick
In relation to additional state aid for Planned Parenthood clinics

This bill seeks to make Planned Parenthood clinics in New York State eligible to receive funding from the Hospital Bad Debt and Charity Care Pool, which was established in 1983 to underwrite a portion of hospital losses associated with uncompensated care to the indigent and uninsured. The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation and urges that it be defeated.

Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars are appropriated each year in our state budget for “family planning services,” the vast majority of which will be appropriated to Planned Parenthood clinics. Additional state taxpayer funds flow to these clinics for “adolescent pregnancy prevention programs,” “health and sexuality-related programs,” sexually transmitted disease testing, and more. In addition to these line items, Planned Parenthood clinics enjoy expanded Medicaid eligibility for their clients, and newly-adopted Department of Financial Services’ regulations mandate cost-free insurance coverage for both contraceptives and abortions. We respectfully suggest that additional moneys to this provider are not warranted. More

In Relation to Reproductive Health Care Decisions

Memorandum of Opposition

Re:  A.584 Jaffee / S.660 Metzger
In relation to reproductive health care decisions

The above-referenced legislation aims to outlaw employment discrimination based on an employee or dependent’s reproductive health decision making.  For the reasons outlined below, the New York State Catholic Conference opposes this bill.

First, we would note that the term “reproductive health decision making” is not defined within the legislation. It is simply referred to as “…including but not limited to, the decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service…”As such, the term is ambiguous, unlimited, and potentially very expansive, and could include not only contraception and abortion, but also in vitro fertilization, human cloning, sex reassignment surgery, surrogacy and other procedures which are directly contrary to the beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church.

To require Catholic Church employers to hire or retain staff who have undergone such procedures or who openly express support for them would substantially impair our ability to hire to mission and enforce our faith-based codes of conduct. In this regard, the legislation is in direct conflict with current protections in New York law (e.g., Executive Law Section 296[11]) which permit religious employers to take employment-related actions based on the religious principles upon which they are established or maintained. More

Contraception Insurance Coverage Expansion

Memorandum of Opposition

A.585 Cahill / S.659 Salazar
In Relation to Expanding Contraception Insurance Coverage

The above-referenced legislation would expand current law to require increased insurance coverage for contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and voluntary sterilization. The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this measure.

In 2002, New York State lawmakers passed the “Women’s Health and Wellness Act” which requires insurance plans with prescription coverage to cover FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices, and provides insufficient protections for religious employers.

The legislation now before you would go further by mandating cost-free contraceptives, requiring that a 12-month supply of contraceptives be covered at one time, and including emergency contraception (EC), the so-called “morning-after pill,” within this coverage. We believe that enabling such large amounts of prescription medication, particularly in such high doses as emergency contraception, to get into the hands of young people is irresponsible and dangerous public policy.


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