Respect Life Blog

Candlelight Vigil for Life

Date posted: April 11, 2013

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

This year, for the first time in more than 40 years, our state government is considering a change to our abortion laws. Tragically, it’s not a change that would tighten regulations, add restrictions, or lessen abortion. It’s a change that would expand our already-too-liberal abortion laws.

In his 2013 State of the State Address, Governor Andrew Cuomo called for enactment of the “Reproductive Health Act,” a bill that already exists (S.438) that would ease restrictions on late-term abortions, permit non-physicians to perform surgical abortions, and make abortion an untouchable “fundamental right” in state law. The Governor has since said that he will introduce a different bill to “codify abortion rights,” but he has not done so to date.candles

To protest these possible changes, New Yorkers for Life is sponsoring a “Candlelight Vigil for Life” on Monday evening, April 15, 2013 beginning at 5 p.m. in West Capitol Park on the Swan Street side of the Capitol. It will be a silent protest…just moms and dads, grandparents and children, holding candles and signs that ask simply, “Can’t We Love Them Both?”

I’ve been around Albany a long time, and rallies and marches are commonplace here. But silent candlelight vigils? Not so much. I believe it will be a stunning visual, a powerful public sign of the commitment of so many New Yorkers to safeguard the inherent value of each and every human life.

Please join us to pray and protest any abortion expansion in the State of New York. Even if you can only stay for an hour from 5 to 6 pm, 6 to 7 pm, or 7 to 8 pm, please come.  Let us, in solidarity, witness to the sanctity of human life.


That reckless ‘Plan B’ decision

Date posted: April 10, 2013

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

The irony of a recent statement by Nancy Northrup of the Center for Reproductive Rights in this post on the “Healthy Consumer” blog of the New York Times gave me a chuckle. The post is about the recent judicial action that will likely make the “morning-after pill” (Plan B) available to persons of any age right over the counter in the pharmacy. Northrup applauds that decision, and compares Plan B to aspirin, arguing that safety and effectiveness should be the standPlan Bard to judge what goes on the pharmacy shelves. “Why in this area are we asking for a different standard?” she questions.

Ha! That’s always been my question. Why are school nurses forbidden from giving young students aspirin but they can write them a prescription for oral contraceptives? Why do parents have to sign the permission slip for their kids to get their ears pierced or their bodies tanned, but a 14 year old can have an abortion without a parent even knowing about it? Why will drug stores now have to keep minors away from tobacco products, beer, even allergy pills and cough medicine, but ensure that they have easy access to the morning-after pill?

Why? Because abortion and contraception is the sacred cow, the lone exception, the one area that breaks all the rules and throws common sense out the window.  The judge’s decision in this case was reckless and irresponsible and defies common sense.


Maternity funds restored!

Date posted: March 27, 2013

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

Good news:  the 2013-2014 State Budget restores funding for the Maternity & Early Childhood Foundation, funding that had been proposed for elimination in the Governor’s proposed budget. Since 1983 the Foundation has provided grants to programs proving essential services for low income pregnant teens, enabling them to keep their babies, and to young parents to help them raise healthy families. But this year the Governor proposed eliminating dedicated funding for the Foundation and merging it with 88 other health-related programs in a new and reduced consolidated funding pot. The Legislature said “No,” and restored the Foundation and most of its funding. Bravo to our lawmakers!

Pregnant and parenting vulnerable women need support and assistance to empower them to make a choice for life. Restoring funding for the Maternity & Early Childhood Foundation is a necessary and great first step…now we have to ensure there is no abortion expansion in the days ahead…


First, Do No Harm

Date posted: March 3, 2013

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

Last week a group of doctors and other medical professionals came to Albany to protest the abortion expansion act that is pending in the legislature. They came from all parts of the state and from numerous medical specialties: family practice, obstetrics and gynecology, cardiology, radiology, psychiatry, neonatology. What a courageous and inspiring group they were, taking time off from their very busy schedules, risking so much to put themselves out there and take the morally correct stand.Dr.AliKo_2-27-13

They addressed the media and explained the risks and potential complications of later-term abortion. They noted the near impossibility of any real physical reason that would necessitate an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy.  They expressed concern for the safety of women if non-physicians were empowered by the state to perform surgical abortions. They documented the psychological suffering after abortion and how such trauma is often hidden or shelved because it is not considered “politically correct.” They implored lawmakers to help both mothers and infants.

They were so knowledgeable, poised, credible and professional. Their testimony moved me almost to tears, tears of gratitude for their sacrifice, their vocation and their commitment to human life. It was a proud day to be a pro-life New Yorker.


Statement in Response to Gov. Cuomo’s Counsel

Date posted: February 26, 2013

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.


How to Reduce (Not Expand!) Abortion

Date posted: February 23, 2013

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

Since Governor Andrew Cuomo declared his intention to “fight for passage of the Reproductive Health Act” last month, abortion has been a hot topic at the Capitol. The Reproductive Health Act is an extreme piece of legislation that would expand abortion in New York by removing restrictions on late-term abortion, allowing non-doctors to perform abortion, and elevating abortion to the level of a “fundamental right.”

Abortion brings death, destruction, pain, heartache and regret. Our goal must always be less abortion, not more. Let’s work together to give women real choices and decrease the devastation that abortion brings.  Here are some suggestions for lawmakers:

  1. Drop efforts to enact the dangerous and unnecessary Reproductive Health Act. According to a recent poll, New Yorkers overwhelmingly (80%) oppose unlimited abortion on demand through nine months of pregnancy, which this legislation would enshrine in our law. If you haven’t already done so, send a message to your state representatives here.
  2. Restore funding for the Maternity & Early Childhood Foundation which funds      prenatal care and parenting assistance for single low-income young moms. The Foundation was zeroed out in the proposed Executive Budget and lumped in with 88 other health-related programs, which would have to compete for reduced funding in a restructured process. Government needs to put its  money where its mouth is and show at-risk mothers and infants that we can love them both.
  3. Make sure New York’s policies are family-friendly. Governor Cuomo gets it right  when he aims to reasonably accommodate pregnant women in the workplace. Of  course pregnant workers should be accommodated! We need to fix any  contradictions or discrimination in our law to ensure that our policies value childbirth and motherhood.
  4. Enact a “Woman’s Right to Know” law to give women considering abortion full      information regarding the risks, alternatives and facts about the procedure, and sufficient reflection time to think it over. Thirty-five states have such laws on the books; not New York.
  5. Promote  adoption as a positive choice. New York could enact tax deductions or credits for families who adopt. Or provide funding for agencies that provide pregnancy      counseling and supportive services to frightened young girls at no cost.  This cost is ultimately passed on in adoption fees, which can become prohibitive for prospective adopting families. Or how about a state-financed public relations campaign to encourage adoption, particularly of special needs kids and children in foster care? Let’s      communicate clearly that adoption is a viable option.

Those five steps would move New York State in the right direction.


Saturday Mourning

Date posted: December 17, 2012

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

I woke up the day after the Connecticut elementary school massacre with literal tears in my eyes.  I had dreamt of the shootings, and my grief was palpable.

I peeked in on my one “baby,” asleep in his bed, safely home from college for Christmas break. I called the second one, who lives away from home, just to hear his voice.

For a full day I had listened to the journalists, politicians and talking heads analyze, scrutinize and pick apart every little detail of the destruction, (despite the fact that so many details were unknown.) I heard one CNN reporter argue fiercely for action on gun control measures so that she wouldn’t be “standing in front of a camera three weeks from now at another tragedy.”

Did she really think it was that simple? That one or two public policy changes would be the magic potion to prevent future horrors? Would it be lesser access to guns? Greater access to treatment for mental illness? Would a reduction in violence on video games be the quick fix?

While we surely need to look at all of these important issues, I suspect that the changes needed are much bigger than the passage of a new law; it’s a cultural change that we need.  I hate to be a one-note Kathy, but what our society is lacking is fundamental respect for human life. We need to model the virtues of respect, love, generosity, and selflessness. We need standards, ethics, family, and God…in the home, in the workplace, and in the classroom.

I pondered these thoughts as I continued my Saturday morning errands. Perhaps it was my imagination, but parents seemed to be holding their children closer, check-out cashiers seemed friendlier, drivers more courteous.

I think that’s a good start.


Talking the pro-life talk

Date posted: December 5, 2012

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

The post-election suggestion by some in the Republican Party that the GOP pro-life plank be dropped from the platform is more than misguided…it’s just plain wrong.  All pro-life politicians, whether Republican or Democrat, need to stay the course; to continue to walk the pro-life walk. Their votes are critical to changing policies and saving lives.

But just as critical is “talking the pro-life talk,” and on that, politicians could learn to be more effective. Public opinion polls continue to show that Americans are trending more and more pro-life, and that a good number stand somewhere in the mushy middle on abortion. Here’s how to appeal to them:

  • Say what you’re for, not what you’re against. You are for life, for maternal health, for the protection of children, for the ethical integrity of medicine, for parental rights, for families…need I go on?
  • Strive for balance and reason. Abortion is out of control in our society and common- sense regulations will help rein it back in. Large majorities of the public will agree with you when you advocate for parental notification, informed consent, limits on late-term abortion and taxpayer funding of the procedure.
  • Show how you are trying to reduce the tragedy.  Abortion is not good for women, children or families. Government should be working to reduce the pain, heartache and long-term repercussions.
  • Accept incremental advances. Rape is also a tragedy, a horrific wound on an innocent woman. She deserves compassionate care in order to heal physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Abortion compounds her wounds with yet another injury. But there’s a difference between what you think of abortion in the case of rape, and what realistically can be achieved through public policy changes. Outlawing (or eliminating funding of) abortion with exceptions for cases of reported rape, incest and life of the mother would outlaw (or eliminate funding of) 98% of all abortions. While this falls short of the Church’s teaching regarding the sacredness and dignity of every human life, nevertheless, it is still a giant step in the right direction.
  • Support and highlight policies that provide real choices to pregnant women like prenatal care, family and medical leave, quality child care, parenting education, adoption subsidies and the like. Empower women and enable them to bear their children and raise their families with dignity.

It’s not rocket science. It’s a simple reframing of the message.

Effectively talking the pro-life talk is vital. It will persuade others to do so, help build consensus, change hearts and minds, and ultimately shape the future of our culture.


Give thanks, then work even harder

Date posted: November 26, 2012

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

I opened the newspaper on Thanksgiving morning to read that the US abortion rate had dropped by 5%, the largest single-year decrease in a decade, according to the CDC. The abortion numbers, rates and ratios all decreased. Truly, something for which we give thanks! Less abortion = less women harmed, less children destroyed, less families shattered.

Of course, the CDC statistics are surveying a drop from 2008 to 2009, not exactly current numbers. Here in New York State, our numbers are a bit more up-to-date (2010), and, praise God, we also see a continued decrease in abortions from year to year.

But the New York numbers are still out of control and way out of line.  The CDC reports the national abortion ratio at 227 abortions per 1,000 live births. Sadly, New York is at 458 abortions per 1,000 live births, with some counties (like the Bronx at 885 abortions per 1,000 live births) recording breathtakingly unacceptable ratios. And when you consider that many abortions go unreported, especially at unlicensed clinics, the numbers are likely higher.

Today’s newspaper reports that the American Academy of Pediatrics’ now recommends that all adolescents be counseled about the availability and use of emergency contraception such as Plan B. Sorry, doctors. I fear such a policy will be moving the abortion numbers in the wrong direction, as study after study confirms that greater access to contraception, (particularly emergency contraception,) does not reduce unintended pregnancies or abortions (See this fact sheet.)

Nope, it’s going to take a bit more work than just telling kids where to get pills. We need to rededicate ourselves to educating young people about the awesome gift of human sexuality, the importance of self-respect, the wonder of creation and the value of each and every unrepeatable human life.


Assisted suicide dies at the ballot box

Date posted: November 14, 2012

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

One bit of good news that came of the elections this month was the defeat of the Massachusetts ballot proposal to legalize so-called “death with dignity.” The voters in the Commonwealth saw through the gushy gobbledygook of “aid-in-dying” for the terminally ill, and unmasked the initiative for what it truly was: the legalization of doctor-assisted suicide.

It’s an astounding victory, given that the polls just a week before Election Day had shown the referendum passing by a wide margin. Bravo to the successful and organized effort in Massachusetts to defeat the proposal, led by pro-life organizations, medical groups, disability rights advocates and the Catholic Church. And bravo to the voters of Massachusetts! Here are my top 5 reasons why they did the right thing. More