New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's faith is being questioned after he signed a bill into law that legalizes abortion up to birth for any reason.
Section 2 of the controversial Reproductive Health Act states that “an abortion May be performed by a licensed, certified, or authorized practitioner within 24 weeks from the commencement of pregnancy, or there is an absence of fetal viability, or at any time when necessary to protect a patient's life or health.”
In an open letter Saturday to the governor in The Evangelist, the official publication for the Diocese of Albany, the Most Rev. Edward B. Scharfenberger called into question Cuomo's Catholic faith, arguing that what the bill permits is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic faith he professes.
“Although in your recent state of state address you cited your Catholic faith and said we should ‘stand with Pope Francis.’ Your advocacy of extreme abortion legislation is completely contrary to the teachings of our pope and our Church. Once truth is separated from fiction and people come to realize the impact of the bill, they will be shocked to their core. By that time, however, it may be too late to save the countless lives that will be lost or spare countless women lifelong regret,” wrote Scharfenberger.
Cuomo signed the controversial Reproductive Health Act into law at a reception in the Executive Mansion immediately after legislators voted to approve it on the 46th anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling.
“Today I signed the #ReproductiveHealthAct — codifying Roe v. Wade into state law and protecting women's reproductive rights no matter what the federal government does. This is a victory for all New Yorkers,” Cuomo said in a tweet Tuesday.
The New York State Catholic Conference said in a statement after the vote Tuesday that it was a tragic chapter in the state’s history.
“Many of the state Senators and Assembly Members who voted for this abortion expansion are mothers themselves, who felt their child toss, turn and kick in their womb, and delighted in the progress of their pregnancy. Many others, as well as our governor, are fathers, who held their partner’s hand as they viewed the ultrasound videos, watched their child squirm and rejoiced at the first sound of a heartbeat. Many of these same officials were themselves born into less-than-perfect conditions – poverty, health problems, disabilities, broken families. All overcame these issues to rise to leadership in our state, because their parents chose life for them,” it said.
“We thank all of our partners in the 12-year-long fight to stop this horrendous policy, and all pro-life New Yorkers who made their voices heard in an effort to stop it. Let us all pray for the conversion of heart for those who celebrate this tragic moment in the history of our state. And we pray in a special way for the lives that will be lost, and for the women of our state who are made less safe under this law,” the statement ended.
The Reproductive Health Act that abortion advocates have been trying to get passed for 12 years and has been vehemently opposed by religious and conservative groups, passed with a 38-28 vote and thunderous applause in the state Senate chamber Tuesday. The bill codifies federal abortion rights guaranteed under the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision and removes abortion from the state's criminal code.
"We have a president who's made it very, very clear that he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade," state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said at a news conference ahead of the vote Tuesday, according to the Albany Times Union. "Today, here in New York, we are saying no. We are saying no, not here in New York. And we're not just saying no. We're saying that here in New York, women's health matters. We're saying here in New York, women's lives matter. We're saying here in New York, women's decisions matter."
Scharfenberger, however, called it a “Death Star” and insisted that support for the bill cannot be reconciled with the values of the Catholic faith.
“The so-called Reproductive Health Act will expand abortion under the pretenses of choice and progress, which, in fact, it will do little to enhance. At the same time, this legislation threatens to rupture the communion between the Catholic faith and those who support the RHA even while professing to follow the Church, something that troubles me greatly as a pastor,” he said.
He then argued that the RHA is more destructive than Roe v. Wade because of “its aggressive extremism.”
“Contrary to what its proponents say, the RHA goes far beyond Roe v. Wade in its aggressive extremism. Granting nondoctors permission to perform abortions does nothing to advance the security and health of women. Condoning coerced or involuntary abortions by repealing criminal sanctions even in cases where a perpetrator seeks to make his partner ‘un-pregnant’ through an act of physical violence does not represent any kind of progress in the choice, safety or health of women,” he said.
“Removing protection for an infant accidentally born alive during an abortion is abject cruelty, something most people of conscience would deem inhumane for even a dog or cat. Finally, allowing late-term abortions is nothing less than a license to kill a pre-born child at will. It is very difficult to understand how you can align yourself with Pope Francis and so vehemently advocate such profoundly destructive legislation,” the bishop argued.
Even though he is divorced, supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights, Cuomo still considers himself a practicing Roman Catholic but wouldn’t go as far as to say he is devout, The New York Times previously reported.
A statement from the Catholic Bishops of New York State last Thursday said the church would continue to support pro-life efforts in the state:
“With an abortion rate that is already double the national average, New York law is moving in the wrong direction. We renew our pledge to offer the resources and services of our charitable agencies and health services to any woman experiencing an unplanned pregnancy, to support her in bearing her infant, raising her family or placing her child for adoption. There are life-affirming choices available, and we aim to make them more widely known and accessible,” the group said.
“Our Governor and legislative leaders hail this new abortion law as progress. This is not progress. Progress will be achieved when our laws and our culture once again value and respect each unrepeatable gift of human life, from the first moment of creation to natural death. Would that not make us truly the most enlightened and progressive state in the nation?” the bishops asked.