The Governor has finally released his abortion proposal, as part of a "Women's Equality Act". The Cardinal and his brother Bishops have issued a strong and clear statement on the bill. The Bishops make clear that they are eager to support measures that would really enhance the lives of women in our state. But they also make clear that the abortion component is totally unacceptable, and is, in effect, a stealth abortion expansion bill.
I urge everyone to read that statement, and then take action to oppose this proposal. But there are a couple of things that I would like to add on my own behalf, because there are some inaccurate things being said by promoters of the bill - principally the allegation that it merely "codifies federal law" by enacting the standards set in the infamous Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.
Actually, Roe v. Wade is no longer the controlling federal constitutional standard on abortion. It's important to understand a bit of the history here, to get why this matters so much. The legal standard established in Roe was very liberal, and courts used it to strike down virtually every abortion regulation passed by state legislatures. But as time went along, the Supreme Court backed away from the extremism of Roe, and eventually adopted a standard that permitted more leeway for states to regulate abortion. This led to the 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which purported to retain the "central holding" of Roe, but which actually transformed the applicable legal standard in a way that made it somewhat more possible for states to regulate abortion successfully.
So if the goal is really to "codify" current federal constitutional law on abortion, a reference to Roe is completely misplaced. (Just to be clear, we would also oppose even a codification of the Casey standard, since that permits the unjust oppression of unborn children, particularly before viability.)
This is not just a lawyer's quibble - it really matters in practice. This proposal would actually codify the high-water mark of liberal abortion law, and ignore the subsequent legal developments that have pared that standard back. It would lock in place an abortion law that is extremely permissive and hostile to any attempt to regulate or restrict the practice in any way.
In addition, the proposal not only ignores the current constitutional standard, it also ignores other important developments that have already been codified in federal law - like the Hyde Amendment (restrictions on public funding), the partial birth abortion ban, the criminalization of violence against unborn children (Lacy and Conner's Law), and more robust conscience protections (like the Church Amendment and the Hyde-Weldon Amendment).
So this proposal cherry-picks federal law, selecting only the liberalized pro-abortion elements that the advocates want, and rejecting the reasonable pro-life elements that they consistently oppose whenever they appear.
If the bill really doesn't expand abortion rights, then what purpose does it serve, and why are the pro-abortion advocates so enthusiastic about it? The fact is, this bill would permit abortion for any reason up to the moment of birth, it would allow non-doctors to do abortions, it could coerce cooperation with abortion by those with moral objections, and it would eliminate any chance of reasonable regulations of abortion.
This bill would give the pro-abortion advocates just about everything they've ever dreamed of - a more permissive environment for abortion, with virtually no legal limits.
Edward Mechman is a blogger for the New York State Catholic Conference.