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NEW YORK – In a reminder to New York Catholics that abortion access will likely go unfettered in the state regardless of federal rulings, the state’s bishops are calling on the faithful to advocate with charity, sensitivity, and clarity, and to reaffirm the church’s commitment to walking with pregnant mothers.
The call comes in a new statement, “Toward a Pro-Life Future in the Empire State” issued by the New York bishops on May 12, where they assess the current situation and envision a path forward for the state.
In the statement, the bishops argue that the pro-abortion movement’s framing of abortion as an issue of “choice” and “reproductive freedom” ignores “the biological reality of what abortion is: The intentional killing of an innocent child in the womb.”
“Millions of our fellow Americans — even, it must be said, many of our fellow Catholics — have succumbed to this false notion, and we must respond to it in charity and with sensitivity, but with clarity,” they said.
The bishops also used the statement to reject notions that church leaders are more concerned with the baby in the womb than with the mother and child after the baby is born. To do so, they reaffirmed a pledge made by the late Cardinal John O’Connor of New York, who was a staunch and outspoken leader of the pro-life movement.
“Any woman — regardless of age, religious belief or affiliation, marital status or immigration status — who is pregnant and in need, can come to the Catholic Church and we will give you the services and supports you need to carry your baby to term,” the New York bishops said.
“Furthermore, we will not abandon you and your baby after delivery, but, rather, we will see to it that you have the resources that you and your child both need and deserve,” they continued. “No one will be turned away from this life-affirming care.”
The statement was signed by New York’s eight ordinary bishops: Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Bishop Robert Brennan of Brooklyn, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, Bishop Michael Fisher of Buffalo, Bishop Terry LaValley of Ogdensburg, Bishop Salvatore Matano of Rochester, Bishop John Barres of Rockville Centre, and Bishop Douglas Lucia of Syracuse.
It comes at a time of growing national tensions after a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade — the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide — and put abortion law solely in the hands of the states.
“As we await a decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the recently argued Supreme Court case that could potentially overturn Roe, we pray for a positive outcome even as we acknowledge that abortion in New York would continue unfettered, and even be actively promoted as a social good by many elected officials,” the New York bishops said.
Abortion is legal in New York through nine months of pregnancy, and it’s one of the few states to require taxpayers to fund abortion through Medicaid. On Tuesday, May 10, Gov. Kathy Hochul reaffirmed that New York will be a haven for anyone seeking an abortion nationwide, and announced a new $35 million investment to support abortion providers in the Empire State in anticipation that the Supreme Court will overturn Roe.
In the statement, the New York bishops lament the stream of pro-abortion legislation and funding the state has seen in recent years, as well as the lack of funding and promotion of programs to support women who choose to keep their babies.
The bishops also question why they can’t work together with New York lawmakers to reduce the rate of abortions given the reality that the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe won’t affect abortion laws in New York.
“There is common ground to be found, even in a state like New York,” they said, citing the recent state budget provision that expands postpartum Medicaid eligibility.
The bishops also presented a list of 12 aspirational statements of what they hope can be achieved. They envision a New York where:
- a woman is never pressured into an abortion
- there’s equal access to prenatal care
- employers and educational institutions fully accommodate the needs of pregnant women
- public policies promote adoption through tax credits and other incentives
- tax policies reduce poverty
- there’s quality healthcare for all
- childcare is affordable and accessible for all
- the responsibilities of fatherhood are promoted
- post-abortive women have the services they need to heal
- “religious organizations can provide needed services to pregnant women and moms while remaining true to the tenets of their faith.”
“All of these goals can come to pass, even in a state like New York,” the statement added. “Let us not put our trust in mere judges, legislators, governors, or presidents. Rather, let us put our faith in God, for whom nothing is impossible. Politicians can change policies and laws, but only God can convert hearts and minds.”
“So, in this month of Mary, mother of Jesus and mother of us all, let us pray through her intercession for an end to abortion in our lifetime and let us work toward making New York a state where even if abortion is not illegal, it will one day be unthinkable.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg