By Bill Miller & Paula Katinas, Senior Reporters
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — The overturning of Roe v. Wade equips the pro-life movement to keep pressing for a culture change that acknowledges life begins at conception, Bishop Robert Brennan of Brooklyn said Friday, June 24.
“It’s an important step,” Bishop Brennan said in an interview with Currents News Anchor Christine Persichette. “But it doesn’t change everything completely, certainly not here in New York. We have a long way to go to change hearts and minds.”
Bishop Brennan’s comments came a few hours after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered its 6-3 majority opinion that eliminated abortion as a constitutional right.
Abortion availability is now to be decided by the state legislatures. In New York, access to abortion will continue, as Gov. Kathy Hochul and the majority of the state’s lawmakers doubled down by making the state a “safe haven” for the medical procedure.
Still, the ruling gives pro-life advocates a better footing in conversations that could lead to more support of the pro-life movement, Bishop Brennan said.
Previously, he noted, Roe v. Wade enabled pro-abortion advocates to stifle debate, saying “this is decided,” and “abortion is a right.
“It also gave governments the ability to intrude on people who were pro-life, to force people into providing for things that, in their consciences, they knew that were wrong,” Bishop Brennan said. “So at least this gives us the ability to talk about it.”
Bishop Brennan noted that the 50-year struggle against “Roe” coincided with a scientific evolution into the complexities of human pregnancy.
As Catholics, he said, “We hold that human life is there from the very beginning, from the moment of conception, but science is underlying that truth more and more — that this is human life, and it’s viable at a much earlier age than we ever thought possible.”
Bishop Brennan also observed a noticeable shift to a societal “middle ground.”
“It’s people that might call themselves pro-choice, but they recognize that the abortion on demand is not right,” he said. “And then there are other people who are just trying to figure it out.
“We need to continue those dialogues, to continue that understanding that provides for the transformation that changes the culture.”
“A historic day,” is how the Catholic bishops of New York state, including Bishop Brennan, described the day Roe was overturned.
But while they cheered the ruling, the eight prelates of the state reminded that a judicial victory and cultural victory are not the same. They said the nation remains deeply divided on the issue of abortion, and that those who champion for life still have much work to do.
“We give thanks to God for today’s decision,” the bishops said in a joint statement. ‘This just decision will save countless innocent children simply waiting to be born.
“On this historic day, our gratitude extends to the millions of heroic Americans who have worked tirelessly toward this outcome for nearly a half-century. They have been a charitable and compelling voice for the voiceless, and today, their voice has been heard.”
The statement was carried on the website for the New York State Catholic Conference. Topping the list of signers was Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, who is president of the conference.
Joining Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Brennan as signers were: Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, Albany; Bishop Michael Fisher, Buffalo; Bishop Terry LaValley, Ogdensburg; Bishop Salvatore Matano, Rochester; Bishop John Barres, Rockville Centre; and Bishop Douglas Lucia, Syracuse.
The bishops said they were “overjoyed” by the ruling, but their letter also took a serious note.
“We acknowledge the wide range of emotions associated with this decision,” they said. “We call on all Catholics and everyone who supports the right to life for unborn children to be charitable, even as we celebrate an important historical moment.
“We must remember that this is a judicial victory, not a cultural one. The culture remains deeply divided on the issue, which will be evidenced by the patchwork of state statutes pertaining to abortion across the country.”
The bishops said building a culture of life depends on creating “family-friendly policies that welcome children, support mothers, cherish families, and empower them to thrive.”
Meanwhile, Father Michael Gelfant, the associate chaplain to the Knights of Columbus in New York State, cautioned against too much gloating about the outcome.
“Is it [the ruling] a good thing? I suppose so. But I would tell people not to do a happy dance in the streets. People are still hurting out there. Abortion leaves scars that last a lifetime,” said Father Gelfant, who is also the pastor of Blessed Trinity Parish in Breezy Point.
The Knights, who participate in the March for Life each year, will continue to help the pro-life cause in various ways, he added, including raising money and donating sonogram machines to health centers.
Nevertheless, local pro-life advocates could barely contain their joy at the High Court’s decision.
“My first response was to say, ‘Praise God!’” said Cathy Donohoe, president of The Bridge to Life, an organization based in College Point, Queens that helps pregnant women.
Donohoe noted that the momentous decision came down on the same day Catholics mark the Feast of the Sacred Heart.
Donohoe conceded that she and her fellow pro-life advocates realize that more challenges lie ahead.
“Our work is just beginning. New York is going to be getting more women coming here for abortions because the ruling doesn’t change the law in New York State,” she noted. “We can still murder our children to the day they are born. But the Supreme Court has spoken and it’s a big day.”
Kristan Hawkins, president of Students For Life of America, called Roe v. Wade “a cancer growing on our Constitution” and praised the SCOTUS decision.
“The injustice of Roe has finally come to an end and the momentum to protect life in law is finally on the side of innocent preborn children and their mothers who deserve our help,” she said. “Now we get back to building a healthy society, affirming life for women and their children — born and preborn.”
The decision also reverberated in churches in the Diocese of Brooklyn as parishioners reacted to the news.
“I think it was the right decision. Abortion should be left up to the states. It shouldn’t be a blanket thing across the whole country,” said Loretta Walz, a parishioner of St. Pancras in Glendale, Queens.
With the decision, the Supreme Court affirmed growing scientific evidence that the unborn should be recognized as a person, according to the Catholic Medical Association (CMA).
“We are filled with gratitude and relief, as Catholics, to know this heinous and medically unfounded law has been overturned,’ said CMA President Dr. Craig Treptow. “For too long it has influenced people to believe abortion is just — when in fact the truth is the exact opposite.”
But as pro-life advocates celebrated the Supreme Court’s action, pro-abortion lawmakers in New York vowed to protect abortion rights.
Calling the court’s decision “a grave injustice,” Gov. Kathy Hochul vowed to maintain New York as a safe haven where abortion could be obtained. “I want everyone to know that abortion remains safe, accessible, and legal in New York,” she said in a statement.
“The right to reproductive healthcare is a fundamental human right. History shows us that when abortion is banned, abortion becomes unsafe for women,” Hochul added.