On the 46th anniversary of the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that gave women the legal right to an abortion, New York state passed the Reproductive Health Act on Jan. 22 that expands abortion-rights legislation in the Empire State.
The Reproductive Health Act expands the current laws to allow late-term abortions when "the patient is within twenty-four weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, there is an absence of fetal viability, or the abortion is necessary to protect the patient's life or health." It also allows abortion if it is necessary to save the mother's life or protect her health, and moves abortion from the criminal code to the public-health code.
The bill was passed by both Democratic legislative houses, now under one-party control for the first time since 2010. It was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo shortly thereafter.
"New York state is already the state with the highest rate of killing pre-born children through abortion," Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo stated. "This is a tragic day for New York state that makes a very bad situation even worse. It is a barbaric action of our legislature, and clearly nothing to celebrate."
Cheryl Calire, director of the Office of Pro-Life Activities for the Diocese of Buffalo, expressed her feelings following the news.
"It's a sad day not just for the people in New York state, but in the history of our Church and mankind," she said. "I ask people to continue to pray, educate and advocate. In choosing life, it is our responsibility to bring them to all the many resources and support systems that are available."
The New York State Catholic Conference sent out a similar statement following Gov. Cuomo's signing of the bill.
"Today, New York state has added a sad chapter to this already solemn date of Jan. 22, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. With the legislature's passage, and Gov. Cuomo's signing of the Reproductive Health Act, our beloved state has become a more dangerous one for women and their unborn babies.
"Many of the state senators and assembly members who voted for this abortion expansion are mothers themselves, who felt their child toss, turn and kick in their womb, and delighted in the progress of their pregnancy. Many others, as well as our governor, are fathers, who held their partner's hand as they viewed the ultrasound videos, watched their child squirm and rejoiced at the first sound of a heartbeat. Many of these same officials were themselves born into less-than-perfect conditions - poverty, health problems, disabilities, broken families. All overcame these issues to rise to leadership in our state, because their parents chose life for them.
"We thank all of our partners in the 12-year-long fight to stop this horrendous policy, and all pro-life New Yorkers who made their voices heard in an effort to stop it. Let us all pray for the conversion of heart for those who celebrate this tragic moment in the history of our state. And we pray in a special way for the lives that will be lost, and for the women of our state who are made less safe under this law."
The Catholic Conference represents the bishops of New York state in public policy matters.