Bill Memos

Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct

Memorandum of Support

Re: A.781 Perry / S.1190 Bailey
In relation to the State Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct

The above-referenced legislation has been introduced to amend the judiciary law, by making chapter amendments to Chapter 202 of the Laws of 2018, enacting the Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct.

This legislation makes a number of changes to the newly-created Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct, including: clarifying that the Commission, like similar state commissions, exists in the Executive Department; realigns the 11 member Commission by increasing the governor’s appointees from two to four; and decreasing the appointments by the legislative majorities by one member; clarifies who approves the appointment of the commission’s administration; modifies the commission’s subpoena powers so as not to interrupt active investigations or prosecutions; stipulates any admonishment or censure of a prosecutor will be done by the Appellate Division and not the Court of Appeals; and changes the effective date from May 1, 2019, to April 1, 2019.

The Catholic Conference supports these legislative amendments and strongly supports the reconstituted Commission on Prosecutorial Conduct.

The Catholic Conference has long advocated for reforms of the criminal justice system that protect the rights of the accused and the interest of those who have been victimized. This legislation is consistent with those efforts. It is in no one’s interest for individuals to be wrongly convicted or for guilty parties to not be held accountable as a result of inappropriate conduct on the part of prosecutors. Prosecutors have a duty to pursue justice and establishing standards in support of that goal benefits the legal system and society as a whole.


GENDA

Memorandum of Opposition

A.747 Gottfried / S.1047 Hoylman
In relation to the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act

The New York State Catholic Conference recognizes the good intentions of the sponsors of this legislation to address unjust discrimination against individuals who are transgender or exhibit gender dysphoria. Every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, and we understand and appreciate the need for protections for all of New York’s citizens, each one having the same innate dignity as any other.

We are concerned, however, that there are legitimate religious principles which religious organizations may assert that may be compromised, and this legislation does not contain adequate religious liberty protections. Religious entities that, as a religious principle, recognize sexual identity and gender as a matter of biological fact, might be compelled to violate religious teachings by this proposed law. This is a concern regarding employment and benefits, and also in the operation of religious schools. 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


NYS DREAM Act

Memorandum of Support

A.782 De La Rosa / S.1250 Sepulveda
In relation to enacting the Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act

The above-referenced legislation would enact the Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act, and establish the DREAM Act Fund Commission. This would provide opportunities for immigrant students who meet certain criteria to be eligible for financial aid to assist them attend institutions of higher education.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports the Jose Peralta New York State DREAM Act, and strongly urges enactment of this legislation.

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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.

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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.

Conclusion

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.


The Child Victims Act

Legislative Memorandum

Over the last couple of years, many Americans have learned of the shocking scale and horrific nature of sexual abuse that tragically permeates society—from Olympic-level athletic programs at public institutions; to abuse by family members; the reprehensible rape and sexual abuse of children in our public schools; and, ashamedly, by clergy within the Catholic Church.

In many instances, the very individuals and institutions that should have protected victims and stood up to do the right thing, failed to act, or even worse, covered up wrongdoing. In the Catholic Church, this has created a moral and spiritual crisis, and resulted in a loss of confidence in leadership among the faithful, and prompted federal and state investigations of dioceses here and elsewhere.

Our Bishops and other clergy have met with many survivors who have been brave enough to step out of the shadows to share their stories of betrayal and pain. Those meetings have made clear how these crimes have shattered children’s lives and haunted victims for decades. The Church owes it to survivors to be a part of the solution to this epidemic of evil, and to play a role in the healing of those who have suffered. More