The Reproductive Health Act—which is poised to be signed into law Jan. 22, the 46th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that legalized abortion across the nation—“is such a radical and extreme bill that it would give New York essentially the worst abortion laws in the country, if not the world.”
Edward Mechmann, director of public policy for the archdiocese, expressed his dismay with the abortion expansion legislation in a Jan. 10 phone interview with CNY.
“It’s about as far as an abortion law can go.”
The New York State Catholic Conference (NYSCC) has outlined ramifications of the bill, including that it would eliminate New York’s current restrictions on late-term abortion, allow non-doctors to perform abortions and remove protections against unwanted or coerced abortions.
“It would eliminate the requirement that only doctors do abortions; it would eliminate a provision that requires a doctor to be available during a late-term abortion, to take care of a baby, if the baby is born accidentally, so essentially guaranteeing a dead baby,” Mechmann said. “It would allow abortion for any reason whatsoever, for all nine months of pregnancy, even up to the moment of birth.”
The Reproductive Health Act, he added, “has been introduced over and over again in the state legislature,” throughout the past 12 years. “We’ve been fighting it all along and we’ve held it up so far, but now with the new legislature coming in and the Democratic majority in the Senate, it’s very clear that the bill is going to pass.”
Mechmann said the governor “especially likes to say, ‘Well, we’re just codifying Roe v. Wade.’”
In reality, Mechmann said, the Reproductive Health Act “goes way beyond that.” Abortion rights have become “the centerpiece of the progressive political agenda,” he said.
The bill is ideologically driven but also pragmatically driven, Mechmann said, citing the “waiver of the doctor-only requirement.”
“There are fewer and fewer doctors who are willing to get into this awful kind of business.
They essentially want anybody who can prescribe medicine to be able to prescribe abortion pills—that would include nurse practitioners, midwives, physician assistants,” basically “anyone that the state education department gives the authority to.”
Despite the likely outcome, Mechmann advises pro-life advocates to contact their legislators to object. “It’s vitally important that we still have our voices heard. We can’t just sit by and do nothing while this kind of law is passed.
“We have a duty to the future generations and we definitely have a duty to the unborn children who are at risk, to speak out for them. No one else is.”
Mechmann said it is also crucial to tell legislators “that we are still paying attention to what they’re doing…that there are people here in New York who disagree, that there are people here who are still willing to stand up for human life, and that we’re not just going to sit by and do nothing while they push us further into the culture of death.”
The Action Center of the NYSCC, through its website, nyscatholic.org, provides pre-written letters that can be routed to New York’s legislators and governor.
“We’re going to be standing down there in Washington, D.C., next Friday, at the March for Life” on Jan. 18, Mechmann said, “commemorating this tragic decision that’s led to 60 million or more deaths, which has led to probably 100 million people—women and men—who have been damaged by the loss of a child.”
The contrast between the March for Life in Washington, D.C., and the Reproductive Health Act in Albany shows just “how far off course the moral compass of our country has gotten,” he said.
Sister Virginia Joy, S.V., director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Office, said, “God’s greatest gift to us—the gift of human life—is absolutely under attack, and it’s under attack because we’re made in the image and likeness of God.
“The sacredness of all human life touches all of us,” she added. “We might feel distant from this particular bill or this particular act or we think it’s not really affecting me or my family. But the truth is, when life is attacked on any level, all of us who make up the Body of Christ, all of us as human beings, are being persecuted.”
A flocknote from the Respect Life and Public Policy offices offers hope despite the outcome. “If the bill does pass in spite of our efforts, please do not be discouraged. All the more needed this year, please be part of the Archdiocese of New York Prayer Vigil for Life” Tuesday, Jan. 22, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, with the Sisters of Life and the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. A Holy Hour begins at 6:30 p.m. Mass follows at 7:30 p.m.
“We would welcome everybody to attend,” Sister Virginia Joy said, “so that we can come before the Lord, begging His mercy on our state that, beyond our reasoning, is so hostile to this tremendous gift.
“Life,” Sister Virginia Joy said, “is never a threat or a burden, but always a gift.”