The release of the Women’s Equality Act drew a sharp response from the Church in New York and its pro-life allies. A statement signed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and the bishops of the New York Catholic Conference declared Cuomo was expanding access to abortion, easing all restrictions on late-term abortion and leaving women without any legal protection from forced or coerced abortion.
“As the pastors of more than 7.2 million Catholic New Yorkers, we fully oppose this measure and urge all our faithful people to do the same, vigorously and unapologetically,” they stated. “We invite all women and men of good will to join in this effort and defeat this serious attempt to expand abortion availability in our state and to codify the most radical abortion proposals of any state in the nation.”
The Register obtained a copy of an analysis of Cuomo’s bill prepared for the New York Catholic Conference, which indicates the Women’s Equality Act expands abortion even more than the language from the Reproductive Health Act, which many pro-life advocates believed would be reflected in the bill. The Reproductive Health Act is a stand-alone bill that would make abortion a “fundamental right” in New York state law, but it has never achieved enough support on its own in the state Legislature to become law.
“The new language accomplishes the same result with less limitations,” the analysis notes. It explains that the Women’s Equality Act, in adopting Roe’s broad health exception (which Roe’s companion Doe v. Bolton case said includes “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient”) would essentially mean abortion on demand up to the moment of birth.
The analysis notes the state Health Department would have the power to qualify non-doctors to perform abortions and even late-term abortions with the removal of the “duly licensed physician” requirement in the state penal law. Moreover, the analysis says that removal of abortion from the penal law would prevent prosecutors from going after domestic abusers who directly cause a pregnant woman to lose her unborn infant.
The analysis adds that the concerns over conscience protections remain, since the bill does not define whether “health-care provider” includes health-care institutions, individuals or both. It says that Catholic schools and charities could still find themselves faced with the choice of referring for abortion or losing state contracts and licenses that keep their doors open.