I wrote last week about the loving care we need to provide—and that the Church and the pro-life movement have been providing for years—for mothers in crisis pregnancy situations. I noted that we can sometimes lose sight of the personal dimensions of this and other life and justice issues, amid the broader—and necessary—political struggles over laws and public policies.
But alas, even in our efforts to assist individual mothers in crisis, we cannot avoid the impact of laws and public policies, and the political machinations behind them.
In New York right now, there is insidious legislation pending that targets pro-life pregnancy resource centers for extinction.
Of course, the bill’s sponsors, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and Senator Brad Hoylman, do not attempt to outlaw these pro-life centers directly. That, they know, could be politically damaging even in New York, and would probably not pass constitutional muster.
Instead, the legislation would authorize a state investigation designed to drain the resources of these largely volunteer, underfunded centers, and to set the stage for pressuring them to provide abortion counseling and referrals.
As the New York State Catholic Conference explains, the legislation “would authorize the New York State Commissioner of Health to conduct a study and issue a report on the impact of pro-life pregnancy centers in the state. The pre-determined outcome of the ‘study’ is that such services are too ‘limited’ in denying pregnant women access to abortion.”
The giveaway on the intent of this legislation is that it authorizes no similar state investigation of abortion clinics. Instead, as an article on the pro-life site liveaction.org notes, the “language of the bill assumes that abortion businesses are the gold standard”—even though “many women have testified that abortion facilities are the ones which did not provide them with accurate information on their full range of pregnancy options, did not provide accurate details about their babies’ development, did not provide accurate information about what the abortion experience would be.”
So the intent of the bill is clearly not to require that all pregnancy-related facilities provide complete information about women’s choices. Abortion businesses, which make money from their “service,” are not being investigated to assure that they provide information about alternatives to abortion. Only pro-life centers—which make no money from their services, and which, in fact, provide a range of products and services for free—are to be investigated, to make sure they provide information about access to abortion.
Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California law that explicitly required pro-life pregnancy centers to inform clients about state-provided abortion “services.” The law, as Justice Clarence Thomas explained, violated the free speech rights of the pro-life centers by requiring them to promote “the very practice (they) are devoted to opposing.”
It would seem, then, that whatever pre-determined “investigation” outcome Glick and Hoylman envision in New York, a subsequent law requiring pro-life centers to promote abortions would similarly be found unconstitutional. So what is their endgame?
“It appears,” the state Catholic Conference observes, that “the intention of the bill is to intimidate, silence and shut down pro-life pregnancy centers. This legislation will force such centers, which rely primarily on volunteer workers, to turn over to the state voluminous data including funding sources, services, staffing, operational guidelines, client demographics and more, even if they receive no state subsidies. The majority of pro-life pregnancy centers do not receive government funding.”
The intention, in other words—in a state “that prides itself on being ‘pro-choice,’” as the Catholic Conference points out—is to “obstruct the choice of childbirth.” And thereby to enhance New York’s standing, not as a “pro-choice” state, but as the abortion capital of the nation.
Right now, the only way to stop this legislation is to change the make-up of the New York State Senate. The Assembly is overwhelmingly pro-abortion, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, having last year signed into law the most radical pro-abortion statute in the country, is hardly likely to veto this bill. But the legislation must still pass the Senate—and undoubtedly will if the Democrats maintain their control there as well. Only by electing a Republican majority to the State Senate next Tuesday can we hope to block this bill.
Although I am no longer constrained from political endorsements as I was when working for the Church or for a non-profit, I have assiduously avoided partisan electioneering in my blog postings to date. But in this case—if we are truly committed to offering women loving, life-affirming alternatives to abortion—we must vote to stop this law. Indeed, those Catholics who argue that we should focus entirely on providing services to women before, during and after birth—rather than on passing laws to protect the unborn—should be particularly motivated to block this legislation, which directly attacks those very services for women.
And so I urge all readers who live in New York to act to save our pro-life pregnancy centers, and all the services they lovingly provide to mothers and children, by voting to elect your Republican candidate for the New York State Senate.