ALBANY, January 18, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – By promoting one of the most expansive abortion bills in American history, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has opened a civil war on two fronts: with his church and with elements of his own party.

Cuomo is pushing for a massive expansion of access to abortion in the state, including lifting restrictions on third-trimester abortions, allowing non-doctors to perform the procedure, and enshrining a fundamental right to “terminate a pregnancy” in New York state law.

Democrats for Life of America deemed the proposed bill “the most sweeping abortion legislation in the nation.”

The Democratic governor introduced the bill to cheers during his January 9 State of the State address, shrouding it in the name of “women’s equality.”

“The abortion language would allow late-term abortions, allow non-doctors to perform abortions, and supersede any reasonable restrictions such as parental notification,” the group stated.

“It is out of touch with the views of most Americans, out of touch with the views of most Democrats, and could hamper real reform for women's rights,” the Democratic group concluded.

Particularly “in a state that already has one of the highest abortion rates,” double the national average.

One-third of all pregnancies in the state end in abortion, and in some parts of New York City the abortion rate is more than 60 percent.

“This is worse than Roe v. Wade itself, and everyone needs to focus on defeating this bill,” Chris Slattery, director of the Expectant Mother Care pregnancy centers in New York City told the National Catholic Register. “It’s the fight of the pro-life movement’s life in New York.”

Slattery said, due to the state's cosmopolitan nature, “people all over the world – not just out of state – are going to be coming to New York to have and perform these abortions.”

With his proposal Cuomo, a Roman Catholic, predictably ran afoul of his Church and its teachings. Both Abp. Timothy Dolan and the New York Catholic Conference blasted the measure.

“I am hard pressed to think of a piece of legislation that is less needed or more harmful than this one,” wrote the Archbishop in a letter to Governor Cuomo.

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“As we have discussed in the past, we obviously disagree on the question of the legality of abortion, but surely we are in equally strong agreement that the abortion rate in New York is tragically high,” he wrote.

“There was a time when abortion supporters claimed they wanted to make abortion ‘safe, legal, and rare.’ Yet this measure is specifically designed to expand access to abortion, and therefore to increase the abortion rate,” he added.

The state Catholic Conference condemned the bill in a memo, saying, “It goes well beyond Roe.”

“This bill says that abortion is fundamental and thus untouchable – no regulations on abortion, ever. No parental notification for minors’ abortions, no limits on taxpayer funding of abortion, no limits on late-term abortions, no informed consent for pregnant women seeking abortion,” it stated. “None of the commonsense regulations enacted by the vast majority of states and supported by large majorities of the public would be allowed in New York.”

The Conference presented a point-by-point deconstruction of the legislation:

  • The bill would permit unlimited late-term abortion on demand. 

Current state law says abortions are legal in New York through 24 weeks of pregnancy (Article 125 Penal Law), but outlawed after that unless they are necessary to save a woman’s life.  This bill would repeal that law and insert a “health” exception, broadly interpreted by the courts to include age, economic, social and emotional factors. It is an exception that will allow more third-trimester abortions in New York State, a policy which the public strongly disapproves.  This ignores the state’s legitimate interest in protecting the lives of fully formed children in the womb, and ignores the will of a majority of New Yorkers who oppose late-term abortion.

  • The bill would endanger the lives of women by allowing non-physicians to perform abortions.

While current law states that only a “duly licensed physician” may perform an abortion, this bill would allow any “licensed health care practitioner” to perform the procedure prior to viability. This dangerous and extreme change clearly puts women’s health at risk, and mirrors a national abortion strategy to permit non-doctors to perform abortions due to the declining number of physicians willing to do so.

  • The bill would preclude any future reasonable regulations of abortion. 

It would establish a “fundamental right of privacy” within New York State law, encompassing the right “to terminate a pregnancy,” even though the Supreme Court has rejected, numerous times, classifying abortion as a “fundamental right.”  Therefore, it is impossible to say that this legislation simply “codifies Roe vs. Wade” in New York law.  It goes well beyond Roe. The Court has said that states may regulate abortion, as long as those regulations do not place an “undue burden” on the right to an abortion. This bill says that abortion is fundamental and thus untouchable – no regulations on abortion, ever. No parental notification for minors’ abortions, no limits on taxpayer funding of abortion, no limits on late-term abortions, no informed consent for pregnant women seeking abortion. None of the commonsense regulations enacted by the vast majority of states and supported by large majorities of the public would be allowed in New York.

  • The bill endangers the religious liberty of Catholic hospitals and other institutions. 

While the bill contains limited conscience protection, that protection is ambiguous and inadequate and is extended only to individual health providers who do not wish to “provide” abortions (protection that is already guaranteed by Civil Rights law.) What is not provided in the bill are protections for institutional providers, such as religious hospitals and other agencies that do not wish to be involved with abortion. The bill declares that “the state shall not discriminate” against the exercise of the fundamental right to abortion in the “provision of benefits, facilities, services or information.”  In other words, it would permit state regulators, such as the State Health Department or State Insurance Department, to require support for abortion from any agency or institution licensed or funded by the state.

  • The bill could be used to undermine the state’s maternity programs

In a similar way, these beneficial programs, which are working well to reduce infant mortality, could be ruled “discriminatory” for favoring childbirth over abortion, and be denied state benefits if this bill were to become law.