New York's state legislature has passed one of the strongest protections of abortion rights.
The New York State Senate has passed the Reproductive Health Act, a measure that would strengthen safeguards in favor of abortion, in a vote of 38 – 24. The motion to pass came on the 46th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade. The bill had already passed the state assembly by a vote of 92-47.
Prior to the vote, Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany made an appeal to stop the bill, which would make abortion a “fundamental right” in the state of New York. In the message, Bishop Scharfenberger compared the bill to Star Wars’ “Death Star,” a space station capable of destroying entire planets, suggesting the bill could lead to world-altering destruction.
The bishop penned the message after Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State address, in which the governor cited his own Catholic faith and urged his people to “stand with Pope Francis.” In the letter, published by Evangelist.org, the bishop challenged Cuomo, stating:
… your advocacy of extreme abortion legislation is completely contrary to the teachings of our pope and our Church. Once truth is separated from fiction and people come to realize the impact of the bill, they will be shocked to their core. By that time, however, it may be too late to save the countless lives that will be lost or spare countless women lifelong regret.
The bill in question, the Reproductive Health Act, or RHA, was introduced to the New York legislature on January 7, and Governor Cuomo vowed that the State Senate and the State Assembly would both pass it within 30 days. Indeed, the State Senate passed it in just 15.
“The so-called Reproductive Health Act (RHA) will expand abortion under the pretenses of choice and progress, which, in fact, it will do little to enhance,” Bishop Scharfenberger wrote. “At the same time, this legislation threatens to rupture the communion between the Catholic faith and those who support the RHA even while professing to follow the church, something that troubles me greatly as a pastor.”
Bishop Scharfenberger released his open letter just two days after the release of a joint statement from all of New York’s Catholic bishops that decried the abortion measure. In their statement the Catholic bishops of NY restated their commitment to bring “the resources and services of our charitable agencies and health services resources” to the aid of pregnant women in need.
The bishop of Albany went on to claim the Reproductive Health Act “goes far beyond Roe v. Wade in its aggressive extremism.” He then outlined several of the more offensive provisions included in the bill:
— “Granting nondoctors permission to perform abortions does nothing to advance the security and health of women.” — “Condoning coerced or involuntary abortions by repealing criminal sanctions even in cases where a perpetrator seeks to make his partner ‘un-pregnant’ through an act of physical violence does not represent any kind of progress in the choice, safety or health of women.” — “Removing protection for an infant accidentally born alive during an abortion is abject cruelty, something most people of conscience would deem inhumane for even a dog or cat.” — “Finally, allowing late-term abortions is nothing less than a license to kill a pre-born child at will.”
He further noted that Governor Cuomo’s support of the measure seems to directly contradict his stated alignment with Pope Francis and suggested that if abortion is determined to be a “fundamental right” in the sate of New York, the beliefs and values of pro-life supporters could be called into question.
“Will being pro-life one day be a hate crime in the state of New York?” he asked.
He wondered if the state would permit pro-life doctors and nurses to be licensed under such a law. He also questioned if health facilities which do not offer abortions would be allowed to continue.
“These are unanswered questions, but I shudder to think of the consequences this law will wreak,” Bishop Scharfenberger continued. “You have already uttered harsh threats about the welcome you think pro-lifers are not entitled to in our state. Now you are demonstrating that you mean to write your warning into law.”
The mention of “harsh threats” refers to Cuomo’s second campaign, in 2014, in which he stated, “pro-life conservatives have no place” in New York. Bishop Scharfenberger noted that we are moving from a society which was working to make abortions a rarity to one which “urges women to ‘shout your abortions’ as some advocates of this bill boldly announce.” He went on to question whether or not this is truly progressive:
How is it progress to ignore the harm that this will do, not only to innocent infants, born and unborn, but to their mothers? Does the heartache of so many New York women who have been pained by their abortion decisions matter? Is anyone listening to them? How is it really “pro-choice” when a law, which claims to guarantee choice, moves to expand only one option for women?
Of young people, he said they “know the lies and the despair that proponents of such dangerous and death-dealing legislation are promulgating, even if blindly or unwittingly,” especially those “who have seen their sonograms and who follow the discoveries the sciences have made.”
“Giving up on life is no excuse for us as a responsible and compassionate people. In so doing, we evade the challenge of accompanying women and the families they are trying to nurture on the long journey. They deserve our courageous and ongoing support in creating conditions under which they will be free to bear and provide for their children.”
The bishop reminded people of faith that their mission is “to support the lives of all, especially the voiceless, the most vulnerable and marginalized.” He also cautioned that we must not “bequeath to our children a culture of death, but together build a more humane society for the lives of all of our fellow citizens.”
In summation, his plea was condensed into one pop-culture driven sentence: “Mr. Cuomo, do not build this Death Star.”
Now that construction of this “fully armed and operational battle station” is complete — to follow the metaphor — perhaps it is time we rely on the Force, or in this case prayer, to save the day.