UNIONDALE, N.Y. – A DVD produced in New York under Catholic auspices aims to educate Catholics statewide about Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposed Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act.
The bill would eliminate even modest controls on legal abortion and possibly force physicians and hospitals – including Catholic hospitals – to perform abortions, said Kathleen Gallagher, director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops.
In addition, the bill could potentially be used to force employers and health insurance plans to pay for abortion, she said.
The Albany-based conference, the Respect Life Office of the Rockville Centre Diocese and the diocese’s television station, Telecare, produced the DVD.
Recorded at Telecare in December, the DVD has been completed and it is to be distributed across the state. It is 14 minutes long; a shorter version will be developed for posting on YouTube.com.
The governor’s proposal is “misguided, immoral and radical,” Gallagher said in a recording session for the DVD.
The bill “is not ‘pro-choice.’ It is pro-abortion. It eliminates choice,” Gallagher said. “It will not make abortion ‘rare.’ It demands societal approval of abortion.”
“The governor’s proposal is so extreme, but many Catholics and others may not be fully aware of its scope,” said Monsignor Francis Maniscalco, director of Rockville’s Respect Life Office.
Last October, after Gallagher spoke on the governor’s proposal at the annual Rockville Centre diocesan respect life convocation, Monsignor Maniscalco said “several participants said they wish we could have this presentation to show to their parishes.”
So he decided that a DVD with her presentation could be helpful in educating the public.
“We hope to get this DVD to every parish in all eight of the dioceses in New York state,” Gallagher said. She thanked Telecare and offered her hope the DVD would be shown “to social justice committees, respect life committees and anyone willing to learn about the bill.”
Catholic voters are being urged to make their opposition known to their elected officials, especially in the state Senate, to stop “this insidious bill,” she said.
Gallagher said the governor has described the bill as merely codifying the right to abortion as it now exists under Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down abortion laws in almost every state, mandating that abortion be legally available. The reality is different, she said.
Current state law, which was passed in 1970, allows abortion in general but restricts it after 24 weeks unless “the very life of the mother is endangered,” Gallagher said.
Over the years, the state Catholic conference and other groups have succeeded in getting pro-life policies passed.
Those include conscience protection for physicians and hospitals against performing abortions, a prenatal health care program for low-income pregnant women that does not pay for abortion, and health regulations for performing abortion.
Spitzer’s bill would make abortion “a fundamental right, like the right to free speech or the right to vote,” Gallagher said. As a result, it would eliminate restrictions even on late-term abortions and endanger policies that offer some restraint on abortion.
The Spitzer proposal also would eliminate provisions in state law requiring that only a physician perform an abortion. It would allow any “health care practitioner” to perform the procedure prior to viability. In effect, abortions could be performed by a nurse, midwife, podiatrist, or “even a chiropractor.”
Because the bill makes abortion “a fundamental right,” it would declare that the state could not discriminate in benefits, services or information. Health insurance plans would have to cover abortion and employers would be forced to offer such coverage in employee health care plans, Gallagher said.
It would allow state regulatory agencies to deny licenses to physicians who don’t perform abortions and operating certificates to hospitals – even Catholic hospitals – that don’t offer the procedure. “In other words, ‘perform abortions or the state shuts you down,’“ she said.
Gallagher cited opinion polls that show that most Americans want greater restrictions on abortion and believe that late-term abortions should be illegal.
“Our church teaches that the intentional taking of human life through abortion is wrong and a legal system that allows it to happen – indeed, encourages it – is fundamentally flawed and contrary to what justice is all about,” Gallagher said.