New York’s shocking abortion bill is a moral travesty

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond Commentary, Clarion Herald

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed an ominous abortion bill into law – the “Reproductive Health Act” – that in many cases legalizes abortion up until birth. How does this news hit you?

It hits me as horrific and shocking. It’s called the “Reproductive Health Act.” I don’t think we can define something as “health” when it allows taking a child’s life in the womb. Another sad irony is that Gov. Cuomo signed the bill into law on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, which for nearly 50 years has legalized the taking of unborn human life, resulting in the deaths of least 60 million babies since 1973. He even directed the spire on the One World Trade Center and several other state buildings to be lit pink to “celebrate this achievement and shine a bright light forward for the rest of the nation to follow.” The governor demanded that the law be passed before he would agree to approve the state budget. We all know there is, in general, a lack of respect for the dignity of human life in our country. This law sets up another chilling precedent, which is very scary. What’s the difference between ending a child’s life in the womb or letting the baby be born and then taking the child’s life? Under the new law, non-doctors are now allowed to conduct abortions. The procedure could be performed until the mother’s due date if the woman’s health is endangered or if the fetus is not viable. The previous law allowed abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy only if a woman’s life was at risk.

Another irony is that New York state has outlawed the death penalty, based on the belief that it is cruel and unusual punishment, but now has the least restrictive abortion law in the country.

It’s impossible to see the moral logic here. The state of New York is very progressive on the death penalty, and we’re pleased they oppose the taking of life through the death penalty. But is this not a fundamental contradiction – that we cannot take the life of a person who is in prison but we can take the life of a child in the womb? In the eyes of God, both lives are sacred and are to be respected.

Questions certainly have been raised about Gov. Cuomo, who has stated publicly that he is Catholic and has even quoted Pope Francis frequently in support of some of his legislative efforts.

I would pray and hope that he would give further reflection – serious reflection – on the teachings of the Catholic Church, especially on pro-life matters. The bishop of Albany, N.Y., Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, has called Gov. Cuomo’s “advocacy of extreme abortion legislation … completely contrary to the teachings of our pope and our church.” Bishop Scharfenberger went on: “I shudder to think of the consequences this law will wreak. 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. Will being pro-life one day be a hate crime in the state of New York?” Cardinal Dolan of New York said the new law tramples the rights of the most vulnerable. He said: “If our governor, senate and assembly have their way, abortion will be legal up to the moment of birth; those large numbers of healthcare professionals who find the termination of pre-born babies repugnant will have no conscience rights to object; trained physicians will be not be required to perform the dismemberment; and a baby who survives the scalpel, saline or suction, and is still alive, can be left to die without any care. … This is ‘progressive’? All people have rights: the immigrant, the poor, the pregnant woman … and her baby. All God’s children, Reverend (Martin Luther) King would insist, are equal and have rights. … Our governor and legislative leaders (in New York) hail this new abortion law as progress. This is not progress. Progress will be achieved when our laws and our culture once again value and respect each unrepeatable gift of human life, from the first moment of creation to natural death.”

What can Catholics in the Archdiocese of New Orleans do?

This incident makes us aware again of how much we should be in touch with our representatives in Congress and give our opinions, and, more importantly, help them see the teachings of the church and why the church has such teachings.

You continue to hear the argument – this is settled law. Why is this such a big concern?

We are concerned because it’s the death of the child, and that should concern every human being.

Questions for Archbishop Aymond may be sent to

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