Respect Life Blog

October is a busy month

Date posted: October 24, 2012

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

There’s a lot going on at this time of year. The U.S. Bishops have designated October as Respect Life Month, while coalitions of victims’ rights groups observe Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Political pundits continue to enjoy the “Year of Campaigning” while our Church has officially kicked off its “Year of Faith.” My head feels like a giant food processor and all of it is mixing together.

As it should. Let’s take them one at a time and see how these threads might be interwoven. More

Good news on stem cell research

Date posted: October 9, 2012

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

Kudos to Senator John DeFrancisco (R – Onondaga) for his successful efforts to bring a public umbilical cord blood bank to upstate New York. For more than six years the Senator has been working to set aside state funding, and cross the T’s and dot the I’s on the project. Finally, on September 17, 2012, the groundbreaking occurred. Hurray! Umbilical cord blood saves lives. It is rich in adult stem cells, cells which can be easily harvested and used in research and treatments. Cord blood stem cells are already being used effectively to treat various leukemias, blood disorders and immune deficiencies, and new therapies are on the horizon.

The only other public cord bank in New York State is in New York City, and it contracts only with hospitals downstate for donations of cord blood.  Thanks to Senator DeFrancisco’s dogged persistence, women who give birth in central New York will soon have a place to donate their umbilical cord, rather than having it tossed in the trash as medical waste. And families facing serious illness will have a new place to go to search for matching blood for potential transplantation. The bank is set to open in 2014.

In other stem cell news, I was delighted to see that Professor Shinya Yamanaka has received the 2012 Nobel Prize for medicine. Five years ago, Dr. Yamanaka successfully turned adult skin cells into the equivalent of embryonic stem cells in a process known as “reprogramming.” The new cells, known as “ips” cells or induced pluripotent stem cells, are now routinely used in research, without the needless destruction of innocent human embryos.

I remember reading an interview with Dr. Yamanaka back in 2007 in which he was describing the “eureka!” moment that the light bulb went off in his head.  He was in a fertility clinic, staring through a microscope at a human embryo. “When I saw the embryo,” he said, “I suddenly realized there was such a small difference between it and my daughters. I thought, we can’t keep destroying embryos for our research. There must be another way.” Indeed there is.

Bravo to these two fine pioneers in ethical research.

Respect life directors build the Culture of Life

Date posted: June 12, 2012

Back row, left to right: Cheryl Calire, Sr. Mary Veronica, SV, Ed Mechmann, Kathy Gallagher; Front row, left to right: Steve Mawn, Jann Armantrout, Lisa Hall

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

I work with an amazing group of Diocesan Respect Life Directors around the state.  To me, they are largely unsung heroes who do life-changing work on a daily basis.  We recently had a meeting where five of our eight dioceses in New York State shared the many programs, events and happenings they are planning, organizing and implementing.  I was blown away by the magnitude and breadth of their activities!  I marvel at how they accomplish so much with only 24 hours in each day.  They are educating young people with the message of chastity and sexual integrity; collaborating with hospitals and health care providers to provide ultrasounds and other life-affirming services to women facing unplanned pregnancies; healing those who are post-abortive through Project Rachel training; focusing on religious liberty with scores of “Fortnight for Freedom” activities; training the next generation of pro-life leaders; staying current on advances in stem cell research; forming coalitions/building relationships/advocating with lawmakers/keeping people informed…the list is endless.

While I have the luxury of focusing much of my energies on only one prong of the U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral Plan for Pro-Life Activities – that of public policy – these folks know there are four prongs – public policy, pastoral care, education, and prayer – all of them vital to building the Culture of Life.  And they manage to do it all…with passion, consistency, civility and a dedication to the cause of life that is unparalleled.

I am so grateful to God for this group of good people.

Can we at least be consistent?

Date posted: June 8, 2012

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

Yesterday the New York State Assembly  passed a bill that requires parental consent prior to the performance of body piercing on anyone under the age of 18. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said “it is important for a parent or guardian to be aware of all the potential risks associated with body piercing…” and the bill’s chief sponsor Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D – Queens) said his bill “will ensure that parents are aware of their son or daughter’s intent to receive a body piercing to prevent complications such as allergic reactions, skin infections or scarring.”  

The body piercing bill passed by a huge margin (133 to 3), with Democrats joining Republicans to protect children. Yet some of the same elected officials who voted for the bill — indeed, some of the same people who sponsor the bill – earlier in the week voted down a proposal to require parental notification prior to the performance of an abortion on anyone under the age of 18.  Do they not see the contradiction?  Do they not care about the complications, reactions, infections and scarring (both physical and emotional) that can result from the invasive surgery of abortion?  Do they not realize that while a nose ring can be removed, abortion cannot be undone, and the scars will linger? 

There was not one word of debate or discussion about the abortion parental notification bill prior to its defeat in the Assembly Health Committee this week. Not one word.  Thirty-seven states require either parental consent or notification prior to an abortion on a minor.  But not New York.  Here, abortion is such a sacred cow, you apparently can’t even talk about it.

Respect for life in the black community

Date posted: May 30, 2012

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

The National Black Catholic Apostolate for Life has designated June 2012 as a month for Black Catholics to raise awareness regarding the evil of abortion and all acts of violence in the community.  Find a flyer, a Prayer for Life and a list of suggested activities here.  Thanks to Fr. James E. Goode, OFM, the founder of the Apostolate, for doing so much in New York City and around the country to build the Culture of Life by planting seeds of non-violence and respect in the minds and hearts of young people.

Good news on abortion!

Date posted: May 25, 2012

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

The news is heartening: the percentage of Americans who identify themselves as “pro-choice” is at its lowest point ever  = 41%, down 6 percentage points from last July, according to Gallup.  Self-identified “pro-life” Americans are at 50%, up from 33% in 1995 when Gallup first began asking the question.  Twenty percent of Americans think abortion should be illegal in all circumstances, and another 52% think it should be banned in certain circumstances, combined for a whopping 72% of the public opposed to the legal status quo on abortion.

Reasonable people agree: there should be limits on abortion.  There need to be common-sense regulations on the practice.  Tell your friends and neighbors:  Abortion is out of control.  It harms women and kills children.  Tell your elected officials: Support restrictions on taxpayer funding for abortion.  Support parental involvement laws for minors seeking abortion. Support informed consent and safety precautions for pregnant women.

Spread the good news, because inch by inch and row by row, we are making the garden grow.  Thank you.  Please continue to sow the Culture of Life.

Assisted Suicide Bill Exits New York

Date posted: May 23, 2012

By Kathleen M. Gallagher

Earlier this month we achieved a quiet, but significant, victory here in New York State. We convinced Assemblyman Eric Stevenson (D – Bronx) to withdraw a bill he sponsored that would have legalized doctor-assisted suicide in the Empire State. Of course, it wasn’t called that; it was called the “death with dignity” act, and it promised “empowerment” for terminally ill patients to enable them to choose the time and manner of their death in a “humane and dignified” manner.

In reality, it would have joined New York with Oregon, Washington and Montana in allowing doctors to knowingly prescribe lethal doses of medication with the express purpose of ending their patients’ lives. It would have changed the role of physician from that of healer to that of killer. It would have changed the way society cares for the sick from that of alleviating discomfort and managing pain to a death-based solution for those who feel they are burdensome and have lost their autonomy.

In 1994, then Governor Mario Cuomo’s Task Force on Life and the Law unanimously concluded that legalizing assisted suicide would “pose profound risks to many patients.” They said this:

“No matter how carefully any guidelines are framed, assisted suicide and euthanasia will be practiced through the prism of social inequality and bias that characterizes the delivery of services in all segments of our society, including health care. The practices will pose the greatest risks to those who are poor, elderly, members of a minority group, or without access to good medical care. The growing concern about health care costs increases the risks presented by legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia. This cost consciousness will not be diminished, and may well be exacerbated, by health care reform.”

I would argue this is truer today than it was 18 years ago. Thank God the New York legislation is gone. Let’s hope it’s a final exit.

The Top 10 reasons to oppose Gov. Cuomo’s abortion expansion bill

Date posted: April 27, 2012

10. It moves New York State in the opposite direction of “safe, legal and rare.”

9. It would undermine maternity and prenatal care programs, which could be ruled “discriminatory” for favoring childbirth over abortion.

8. It could be used to mandate abortion coverage in all insurance plans.

7. It could compel Catholic Charities and Catholic schools to counsel and refer for abortion.

6. It could compel all hospitals, even Catholic hospitals, to allow abortions on premises.

5. It lifts the current age restriction on the purchase of the so-called “morning-after pill” at neighborhood drug stores, allowing girls as young as 11 and 12 to get the drugs without a doctor’s prescription or a parent’s knowledge.

4. It makes abortion immune to common-sense prudent regulations: parental notification for minors’ abortions, restrictions on taxpayer funding, informed consent or a waiting period for pregnant women.

3. By inserting a broad “health” exception into our law, it opens up third-trimester abortions for any reason at all, and invites late-term abortionists into New York State to set up shop to abort viable, fully formed babies.

2. By repealing the requirement in current law that only a licensed physician may perform an abortion, it endangers women’s lives.

1. New York is already the abortion capital of the nation, with 33% of pregnancies (40% in NYC) ending in abortion, as opposed to 19% nationally.

Here is our bill memo on the legislation.

Abortion lobby still pushing the “Reproductive Health Act”

Date posted: April 19, 2012

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.

Stillbirth certificates now available

Date posted: April 13, 2012

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

Losing a child — whether unborn, stillborn or live born — is undoubtedly the most painful and traumatic event a parent can endure. Now, finally, parents of stillborn children can find some comfort and healing for their heartache by obtaining a Certificate of Still Birth from the New York State Health Department. 

It took more than eight years of political wrangling, with abortion advocates fearing the law might — God forbid — confer “personhood” onto the fetus, but now it’s official. As of March 21, 2012, these certificates are available for families who’ve lost a child to stillbirth, defined as “the unintended intrauterine death of a fetus that occurs after the clinical estimate of the 20th week of gestation.” 

Information from the State Health Department on how families can apply for a certificate is here.

The actual application is here.

Even family members of still born children from many years ago are eligible for this certificate.  

New York City has their own forms which must be used by parents who delivered a stillborn child in one of the five boroughs.  The city application is here.  More detailed information about instructions for New York City residents is here.

Please spread the word about the availability of these certificates, which will hopefully bring comfort to many who grieve the loss of a child.