New York Governor Andrew Cuomo seeks to impose a radical new abortion regime on the state, one that goes far beyond the euphemistic byword “choice.” The bill would in fact limit many choices, for instance the choice of Catholic hospitals and other institutions with moral objections to decline to allow abortions to be performed in their facilities. It would limit the choices of organizations that counsel pregnant women if their counseling were held to be insufficiently enthusiastic about abortion. It would limit the choices of organizations that seek to help women in crisis without involving themselves in the politics of abortion.
The anodyne-sounding “Reproductive Health Act” is a very bad proposal indeed. Where it regulates, it regulates the wrong parties in the wrong way. But it also deregulates with equal disregard: It would among other things allow persons other than physicians to perform abortions. That is an innovation borrowed from Jerry Brown’s California, where midwives and nurses are permitted to perform abortions. The State of New York will not permit a burly man to lift a box without a state permit to operate a moving company, but gynecological surgery apparently is to be considered a matter for immediate regulatory relief.
New York does not want for access to abortion. Two in five pregnancies end in abortion in New York City; the rate for black women is 60 percent. The statewide figures are lower, but they are high enough. There are about 250 abortion clinics in the state, and 93 percent of the state’s women live in a county that is home to an abortion facility, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Nationally, abortion kills the equivalent of the combined populations of Atlanta and Cleveland every year. All that with no help from Governor Cuomo.
Governor Cuomo’s bill is not about easing access to abortion — those bloody skids already are well-greased. The issue is political domination. The abortion party does not brook resistance, and it steadfastly seeks to ensure that everybody has a hand in its grisly business: taxpayers, employers, priests. All must be implicated. If a religious hospital declines to provide abortions, then it must be forced to do so. If a counseling center treats adoption as preferable to abortion, it will either change its mind or have its mind changed for it by the gentle persuasion of the State of New York.
Like the abortion provisions in the Patient Protection Act, Governor Cuomo’s proposal is a gross assault on individual liberties. The free exercise of religion requires that institutions not be forced to violate their precepts and their consciences; freedom of speech means that counseling services must be free to express their views, regardless of whether those views are welcome in Albany. Even those who support the right to abortion ought to be able to appreciate that “choice” also applies to those who do not wish to provide abortions, to house abortionists, or to finance them.
Governor Cuomo began his term in a conciliatory fashion, concentrating on nuts-and-bolts issues related to budgets and state services. He presented himself as a moderate, and was welcomed as one. The lesson he apparently has drawn from the reelection of Barack Obama is that being a cultural lightning rod can pay political dividends if you know how to run the game. That sort of calculation on a run-of-the-mill political issue would be merely cynical; in this case, it is monstrous.
No woman in New York is being denied an abortion because of public policy. But Governor Cuomo’s proposal will ensure that many vulnerable women and children are denied much-needed services and care. It will do so by forcing many providers of health care and social services out of the business. Just as the Diocese of Boston dropped its adoption program rather than comply with Massachusetts’s demand that it place children into same-sex households, agencies providing services to women will direct their resources elsewhere rather than become involved in abortion. The Catholic Archdiocese of New York alone operates about 90 social-service institutions—and Governor Cuomo apparently is willing to sacrifice the people who rely on them in order to advance his political career. Perhaps the next time Governor Cuomo arranges to have his picture taken in front of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, Bishop Hubbard will ask him about that.