LOPEZ: Is this Health and Human Services mandate important to New Yorkers?
LONG: It is important, in two different ways. One, because of the gross distortion of the issue by people like Kirsten Gillibrand, who try to convince people that the Catholic Church wants to take away women’s freedom to use contraception. Many people are working hard just to earn a living and put food on the table and take care of their kids in challenging circumstances, and when they hear their senator say things like this, over and over, they tend to give it credence. So, some New Yorkers have a mistaken notion about its importance, because they believe the absurd charges of Senator Gillibrand against the Catholic Church.
On the other side, I know that many New Yorkers are deeply troubled that the federal-government mandate would force Catholic schools, hospitals, and other institutions to violate their religious beliefs. Women are free in this country to have all the contraception they want, and no one is proposing altering that. But there is no basis whatsoever, morally or constitutionally, for the federal government to force anyone to violate her conscience. That freedom of conscience — not the freedom to use contraception — is what is really at stake here. And to attack the Catholic Church — particularly in the state of New York, where, of all places, one ought to appreciate the children it has educated, the sick it has treated, the poor it has fed, the souls it has healed — is inexcusable. All people of good will — not just Catholics — should stand up for the basic right of conscience in an institution that has done so much for so many, and sits in judgment of no one.LOPEZ
: What does the Susan B. Anthony List endorsement mean to you?
LONG: It means a great deal to me. Respect for human life has been close to my heart since I worked for two pro-life senators after college, during the Reagan years, and first began to think about the issue. It has taken on a really tangible aspect for me since having children, and since taking care of dying parents and grandparents — particularly nursing my mother through five years of decline and death from ALS. It’s something I really had not thought much about before I was in my mid-20s, but I began to think it through, as a human-rights issue. I think a society as civilized and advanced as ours has an obligation to take care of its weakest and most vulnerable members. Any human society does, really, but ours does especially because of America’s principles: The Declaration of Independence mentions that we’re endowed by our Creator with a right to life — and as an advanced society, we have the ability to take care of those who are weak and powerless. I don’t think we should pit the interests of the unborn child against the interests of her mother; we should help both of them thrive and flourish. We bring out the best in people when we help them to take care of each other. I think the Susan B. Anthony List exemplifies perfectly the profound truth that respect for human life is part of respect for women. I’m emboldened by their endorsement.