In the aftermath of the passage of the Reproductive Health Act in January, the New York State Catholic Conference (NYSCC) continues to lobby for bills that would help pregnant women and boost adoption, while opposing bills that it deems harmful to life at any stage.
The RHA, which was signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, expanded abortions rights in New York state and was seen by many as an extreme measure.
“The needle has moved on public opinion towards the pro-life side, because of what happened in New York,” Kathleen Gallagher, director of pro-life activities with the NYSCC, the public-policy arm of the state’s bishops, and director of Catholic Action Network, told The Tablet on May 31, days before pro-life activists rallied in Albany to support the rights of the unborn.
“New York’s law has been a wake-up call, and as evil as it is, it has been a great educational tool for people,” Gallagher said. “People are really upset about this. My hope is that we can sustain that anger into the next election year – when people remember the legislators who voted for it and those who voted against it, and we need to hold our legislators accountable.”
Cuomo’s office didn’t return emails for comment.
Meanwhile, in New York state, several bills related to adoption and assistance for pregnant women are under consideration before the legislature. The following are bills that the NYSCC supports:
- Senate Bill 4004/Assembly Bill 570: Would require state agencies to provide potential adoptive parents with information on benefits
- Assembly Bill 6181: Would ensure pregnant high schoolers support services to continue their education while pregnant
- Assembly Bill 1768: Would offer a $10,000 tax deduction for the adoption of a child with special needs
- Assembly Bill 7171: Would provide funding for child care for children of moms under the age of 24 to help the moms continue their education
- Senate Bill 1086-A/Assembly Bill 2562: Would give financially needy mothers access to a monthly allowance for the cost of diapers
- Senate Bill 5493: Would ensure that no low-income family in the state pays more than 10 percent of their household income for child care.
The NYSCC is also opposing a physician-assisted suicide bill that would allow doctors to prescribe lethal doses of medication to terminally ill patients as well as a bill that would make paid surrogacy legal in the state. New York is one of three states that bans commercial surrogacy. Gallagher argues that commercial surrogacy could “exploit poor woman” and allow “legal-baby-selling.”
The current session for the New York state Senate and Assembly ends on June 19, and so lawmakers have less than two weeks to act.
Gallagher said that she hopes the pro-life rally on June 3 and anger over current abortion laws will drive people of faith to call their legislators and start Respect Life committees in their local parishes.
“We have to show our elected representatives that the pro-life majority is here, and we’re not going away,” she said. “This is part of our Catholic call, to choose life. We as Catholics are called to become active in the political arena, so that we can shape laws that promote the common good. It’s important to remember Mother Teresa’s words: We are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful.”