The Reproductive Health Act (RHA) which will soon become law in the State of New York, is “worse than we thought it would be,” according to officials of the New York Catholic Conference, as “it foresees a time in New York where it’s a crime to be pro-life.”
“The RHA is a great blow to the pro-life community,” said Renee Morgiewicz, coordinator of Respect Life Ministry and parish services for the Albany Diocese. “Many people in New York state have successfully held off the legislation for 12 years. This means that we have saved some human lives and we saved women from anguish”.
“The Evangelist”, newspaper of the Albany Diocese said that the Bill is expected to pass within the first 30 days of the legislative session, as promised by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The bill refers to abortion as a “fundamental human right,” which is cause for concern, said Kathleen Gallagher, director of pro-life activities and the Catholic Action Network for the conference, which is the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops.
Because of the strong language, the bill could be used to block religious organizations from advocating for life, or prevent doctors from abstaining from performing abortions on religious or moral grounds. ‘A fundamental right’ is a right that could supersede everything, even the right of conscience and religious freedom.”
The proposed law also repeals the current state requirement that only a licensed physician can perform an abortion and repeals the current law that states third-trimester abortions can only be performed in cases where the mother’s life is in danger.
The bill also repeals protections for accidental live births and disallows criminal charges for illegal abortions, such as when a perpetrator seeks to abort their partner’s child through drugs or physical violence.
The state Catholic conference has updated its website to ask visitors, through its Catholic Action Network, to send a message via an email form on the site to their legislators and the governor urging them not to support the legislation.
Those working in the pro-life movement say their work will focus on educating the public on pro-life issues and providing resources so that fewer women will choose abortion. Catholic Charities, offers a variety of maternity services for women facing an unplanned pregnancy in the Albany Diocese. Other resources include the upcoming diocesan Project Rachel ministry, which provides support and healing to women who have had an abortion.
Both nationally and state-wide, the number of abortions has continued to decline. According to a report issued in November by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2015, the last year for which statistics are available, abortions dropped by around 2 percent from those reported in 2014, and about one-fourth less than in 2006.
The state Catholic conference recently released a bulletin announcement for use in parishes across the eight dioceses in the state. Each bulletin insert is customizable so that parishes are able to add local resources for women who may be facing an unplanned pregnancy or who may be struggling after an abortion.
“Rarely is abortion a first choice; it’s usually a last resort,” said a pro-life activist. “The church ought to be in a place of helping women and girls to make an informed decision and have the resources they need, whether psychologically, physically, or spiritually, to carry and bring their baby to term.”