Among other issues, the New York bishops met with Governor Cuomo and several state lawmakers on March 19 to discuss the reintroduction of New York’s “Reproductive Health Act” in the state legislature.
The bishops find the measure “very troubling for the good of society,” Bishop Murphy said.
Introduced in the state senate in January, the bill has received strong support from Cuomo. It would enshrine in New York law a “fundamental right” to abortion, including late term abortions with almost no restrictions.
The proposed legislation would allow non-doctors to perform abortions and would prohibit regulations such as parental notification for minor children seeking abortions. In addition, it would remove manslaughter charges for abortionists who kill women during the procedure.
New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan was not able to be at the March 19 meeting, since he was still in Rome following the election of Pope Francis last week. However, he said in a blog post that he would “certainly be with my brother bishops in spirit” and would be praying for the meeting, especially for mutual agreement on the abortion bill and other issues.
Bishop Murphy said that the conversation at the meeting was “very cordial, very frank, very candid,” but while the governor respectfully listened to their concerns, “we did not agree.”
“We explained to him why we are so adamantly opposed to any such thing,” he said, describing the bill as “a codification of Roe v. Wade in the state law.”
“By codifying it into the state law,” he continued, “you would in effect expand the protections around abortion in ways that are not acceptable to us.”
He also explained that the bishops’ opposition to abortion is not because they lack of concern for women who face tough choices.
“We understand the plight of women in difficult situations” he stressed, noting that “more often than not, we’re the ones who have to counsel them and help them.”
The bishops told Cuomo that “abortion is not the answer” and that it “is already all too available in the state.”
Calling the Church’s position on respect for life “unshakable,” Bishop Murphy reiterated an opposition to any abortion expansions in the state.
The bishops also addressed a number of other topics of mutual concern, including gun control, minimum wage, affordable housing and the availability of chaplains for incarcerated prisoners.
In addition, Bishop Murphy said, Cuomo pledged during the meeting that billions of dollars in federal government funding will be directed towards faith-based relief efforts – including those run by the Catholic Church – for continued rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.
The governor “thought it would be good for the state and for the churches and for all of us if we worked together,” Bishop Murphy explained.