‘This is progressive?’ New York bishops react to new abortion law

Albany, N.Y., Jan 23, 2019 / 01:30 pm (CNA).- Catholic leaders in New York have spoken out against the passage of an expansive new abortion law in the state. The Reproductive Health Act was passed on Tuesday, the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade.


In a statement from the New York State Catholic Conference, the state’s bishops called the passage of the law a new “sad chapter” on a date that already carried tragic associations for supporters of life.


The New York State Senate voted 38 to 24 to bring the act into law after a 12-year legislative battle.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), a Catholic, said earlier this month that he would sign the legislation if it were to be passed, and that he hopes to add abortion rights to the state’s constitution. This process could begin next year.


The bill was passed on the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that found a woman had a legal right to receive abortion in the United States.


“Our beloved state has become a more dangerous one for women and their unborn babies,” read a statement from the NYSCC.


The act codified into law the finding of Roe v. Wade, meaning that abortion would remain legal in New York even if the case were to be overturned by the Supreme Court.


While the law officially limits abortion to the first 24 weeks gestation, abortion is permitted at a later gestational age for reasons related to the wellbeing of the mother. Additionally, the bill removes act of abortion from the criminal code, and instead places it in the public-health code, and strips most safeguards and regulations on the procedure. Non-doctors will now be permitted to perform abortions.


Writing on his official blog on the eve of the bill’s passage, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York said bishops are not supposed to be “politicians or culture warriors,” but said that the new law was an affront to the rights of the most vulnerable.


“If our governor, senate, and assembly has their way, abortion will be legal up to the moment of birth; those large numbers of healthcare professionals who find the termination of pre-born babies repugnant will have no conscience rights to object; trained physicians will be not be required to perform the dismemberment; and a baby who survives the scalpel, saline, or suction, and is still alive, can be left to die without any care.”


“This is ‘progressive’?” Dolan asked.


“All people have rights:  the immigrant, the poor, the pregnant woman… and her baby.  All God’s children, Reverend [Martin Luther] King would insist, are equal and have rights,” the cardinal concluded, recalling the recent observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Day.


In a statement published on the state website, Gov. Cuomo called the signing a “historic victory for New Yorkers,” and that “in the face of a federal government intent on rolling back Roe v. Wade and women’s reproductive rights, I promised that we would enact this critical legislation within the first 30 days of the new session – and we got it done.”


Cuomo said that he hopes other states will follow in New York’s lead and pass similar legislation.


Bishop of Albany Edward B. Scharfenberger, questioned if supporting and signing this law could impact Cuomo’s standing in the Catholic Church and ability to receive communion.  “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,” wrote Scharfenberger.


In an open letter to the governor, Scharfenberger highlighted Cuomo’s apparent inconsistencies when referencing his Catholic faith.


“Although in your recent State of the 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,” Scharfenberger wrote.


New York was the first state to legalize abortion, and did so in 1970. It currently has the highest abortion rate in the country. In 2019, the organization Americans United for Life ranked New York 43rd on its annual ranking of pro-life states.


The bishops also requested prayers not only “for the conversion of heart for those who celebrate this tragic moment in the history of our state,” but also for “the lives that will be lost, and for the women of our state who are made less safe under this law.”


There were many “celebrations” throughout the state after the law was passed. In addition to the loud cheering in the Senate chamber after the vote, One World Trade Center and other landmarks around the state were lit up in bright pink to “celebrate” the law.


In Albany, meanwhile, next to the Executive Mansion where the bill was signed, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception tolled its bells in preemptive mourning for the unborn lives that will be lost.


“As a society, we can and must do better,” Scharfenberger said.


“The teaching and intuition of our common faith readies us to help. It is an essential part of our mission to support the lives of all, especially the voiceless, the most vulnerable and marginalized, as Pope Francis always reminds us to do.”

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.


  1. A question to our bishops. How is permitting these Catholics like Cuomo, and Pelosi working out for their conversion? Kennedy went to his grave promoting abortion. Does anyone worry about the souls of these politicians? Is your policy working to change the culture of death? Letter writing and public statements do as much good as this statement will. But you hold the authority to do more, if you choose to do so. What’s the difference between Cuomo and a Mafia Boss, who are denied funerals by the church?

  2. It is hard to believe Governor Cuomo has signed such legislation. he should be excommunicated publicly from the Catholic Church. It is shameful in our society! The unborn should be treasured, not killed. Where is our society headed? Where is the voice of the Catholic Church and our Cardinals and Bishops? I have not seen anyone representing the Church speak out about this sad legislation on TV !

  3. Gov Cuomo has already been denied communion since 2011 due to his adultery. Now he signs on to infanticide because there is no valid medical reason for abortion after 24 weeks. Babies are routinely delivered and live. This is nothing less than modern day Moloch worship, and Cardinal Dolan has aligned himself with it by acquiescence. If Cuomo cannot be excommunicated then nobody can justifiably be excommunicated. Cardinal Dolan makes a mockery of every Bishop in Church history who has excommunicated persons for far less a sin than the one Cuomo has committed. Whole nations were sent into war and upheaval over excommunications that Popes and Bishops felt were necessary for the integrity of the Church…..Henry VIII comes to mind. How many Catholics were martyred as a result of that decision? Are we to believe that they all died in vain since the Pope apparently erred in making that choice? Who does Dolan think he is to make such a judgement? His arrogance is astounding. So the only conclusion I can reach is that it is a free for all on sin in the Catholic Church of Nice where anything goes and nobody is accountable for anything. Why do we even bother with confession? If infanticide doesn’t measure up up on the sin scale, what does? Dolan allows Cuomo to remain a Catholic when he remains unrepentant, even celebrating infanticide. I have to wonder why a good Christian should want to be in the same Church with Cuomo and Dolan?

  4. The Lord entered he Temple and upon seeing the Money Changers and Vendors our lord came to rage and began upending the tables ,thrashing and chasing the sinners from his fathers Temple

    New York is your Temple , the place where you have been commanded by Jesus to bring his Bride to fulfillment
    Yet you have turned over not a single table , for neither have you thrashed or chased the sinner from your midst .

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. If this nun-doctor can't get a vaccine religious exemption, who can? – Catholic World Report - Knowing and getting closer to God - Norbert

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.