By Julie Asher
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON — New York state’s new law allowing abortion essentially “for any reason through all nine months of pregnancy” and similar legislation proposed in Virginia and other states is “evil, pure and simple,” said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee Feb. 2.
“Abortion has always been built on a lie. Today, the lie is switching from ‘abortion is a choice’ to ‘abortion is health care,’” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.
“It is sickeningly dishonest to claim that women’s lives or health depend on intentionally killing their children,” he said. “This is especially true for late-term abortion, which always involves the purposeful destruction of a child which could have been born alive, with much less risk to the mother, had they both received real health care.”
He called on all Catholics — bishops, priests and laity — “to fight for the unborn with renewed vigor” by educating “family, friends, legislators and fellow citizens about how it is never necessary to intentionally kill unborn children in order to save their mothers.”
“Local action is especially important” and “thoughtful Americans of all religions or none at all” need to advocate on this life issue, Archbishop Naumann added.
On Jan. 22, the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Catholic, signed into law the Reproductive Health Act, which he fully supported. Among other provisions, the new law now permits abortions with very few restrictions at any week of a pregnancy.
The law has been met with an outcry by the state’s Catholic bishops and calls by some that Cuomo be excommunicated.
As the bill made its way through the Legislature, when Cuomo signed it and since it became law, the state’s Catholic bishops decried the measure in several statements. Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, had urged Cuomo not to allow “this Death Star” to be built. New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has called it “ghoulish.”
New York lawmakers stood up and cheered after Cuomo signed the bill. The governor also ordered that the needle atop the One World Trade Center — the tallest building in the United States — be lit pink in celebration the same day.
“It shocks the conscience to see such evil legislation greeted with raucous cheers and standing ovations,” Archbishop Naumann said Feb. 2, adding: “Most grieving to our Lord of life is that those who advocate for abortion put their eternal souls in jeopardy.”
Archbishop Naumann also referred to efforts in other states to expand abortion laws, in particular Virginia. A bill to allow an abortion even at delivery — as Democratic Del. Kathy Tran, its sponsor, explained at a hearing — was ultimately tabled by a subcommittee of the House of Delegates.
In a Feb. 1 statement about the Virginia bill, the archbishop said its “senseless disrespect for new human life” was “horrifying.”
While Tran’s bill is in limbo for now, her explanation of its provisions and remarks in support of the bill by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, also a Democrat and a former pediatric neurosurgeon, went viral and were met with a storm of protest by pro-life leaders. The Catholic bishops of the state and the Virginia Catholic Conference, which represents them on public policy matters, issued strong statements opposing it Jan. 31.
Richmond Bishop Barry C. Knestout said the words “horrific, outrageous, vicious” were “in my heart” when hearing about this effort to expand “the brutal practice of abortion.” “We should not be legislating in favor of abortion, let alone third-trimester abortions at all,” he said. “All our actions and decisions should be life-giving.”
Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge said the bill “rightly failed,” but added, “I am, along with so many people of goodwill, distraught that this bill was introduced in the first place. It could have paved the way for babies to suffer a violent and gruesome death moments before birth and could have been harmful to women.”
He added, “My hope is that this bill failed because the elected officials of the state Legislature recognized that it was an evil and impermissible offense to human life and our collective decency.”
In his Feb. 2 statement, Archbishop Naumann said local action to fight these kind of state measures is crucial, especially if the Supreme Court were to overturn the Roe decision as some hope.
“Though ending Roe v. Wade is a central goal of the pro-life movement,” Archbishop Naumann said, “if the decision were overturned, only 11 states would immediately ban abortion; the other 39 would still allow it.”
“I urge Catholics, and thoughtful Americans of all religions or none at all to advocate for local change,” he said, urging people to sign up for their or diocesan or state Catholic conference’s “pro-life advocacy network, which can help you communicate to elected officials.”
“Or seek out state and local pro-life groups, including parish respect life groups, that are making a difference at the state level,” he suggested.
“Though we live in very dark days, we know that the Lord has already triumphed over death. But we must use this time on earth to be his hands and feet,” Archbishop Naumann said. “This means each of us rededicating ourselves to prayer, and fighting for the most vulnerable among us, especially unborn children and their mothers.”