For many years now, Governor Andrew Cuomo has been pushing to expand abortion in the Empire State, long ago dubbed the abortion capital of the country — and it doesn’t look to be giving up the title anytime soon. Instead, Cuomo wants to enshrine abortion as a fundamental right in the state’s constitution. This week, Hillary Clinton joined him to rally for this deeper dive into a culture of death.
Kathleen M. Gallagher, director of pro-life activities at the New York State Catholic Conference has been on the front lines of holding back Cuomo’s desire to strip away of commonsense restrictions of the kind that should be common ground on such a contentious and intimate issue. More late-term abortions. Non-doctors performing abortions. The guarantee of a dead baby — removing legal protections should a child be born alive.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: What are your thoughts as many get ready to head to Washington D.C. for the annual March for Life and New York is on the brink of expanding abortion?
Kathleen Gallagher: I find it both sad and ironic, that as hundreds of thousands of faithful people begin to solemnly commemorate the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Democratic leaders in New York will be celebrating an expansion of abortion rights. Let that sink in: Abortion advocacy groups and some lawmakers are celebrating an expansion of abortion as “progress.”
Lopez: You’ve been successfully fighting this for so long. What alarms you the most in what looks to be the final product?
Gallagher: As a woman, it’s so hard to wrap my mind around all the harm that this will do, not only to innocent infants, but to their mothers. I wish that the newly elected female lawmakers in New York would take a few minutes to listen to the heartache of so many N.Y. women who have been pained by their abortion decisions. Their voices matter! The abortion numbers have been trending downward in our state, but I fear this law will move the numbers up, particularly the late-term abortion numbers.
Lopez: Andrew Cuomo’s father famously spoke at Notre Dame about being a Catholic who is publicly for abortion but personally opposed. Was that some kind of slippery slope to what we are watching now?
Gallagher: Absolutely. It feels as though we no longer even have permission to be “personally opposed.” We have gone from a society working to make abortion “rare” (remember when Kate Michelman of NARAL famously said that abortion is a “bad” thing?) to one that urges women to “shout your abortion.” Abortion is a tragedy all the way around, yet our secular culture tells us it is a good thing, a routine component of women’s health care, and a required element of women’s equality.
Lopez: Is there some massive prayer campaign that ought to be launched to shield women and families from the harm law can cause them when it comes to abortion?
Gallagher: We are urging prayers to St. Gianna Molla, the patron saint of mothers, doctors, and preborn children. We are praying for changed minds, changed hearts, and a deeper awakening to the sacredness and dignity of human life. Abortion may be legal and available in New York State, but we aim to make it unthinkable. Through God, all things are possible.
Lopez: What is this business about pro-lifers not being welcome in the state? I know Andrew Cuomo once went on about that but that could never have teeth, could it?
Gallagher: I believe it could. The legislation elevates abortion to a “fundamental right” in our state, and says that the state government shall not discriminate or interfere with that right. Will the state be able to give licenses to pro-life nurses or physicians? Can they give operating certificates to health facilities which don’t provide abortions? Will they be able to give even one dollar to maternity services without offering women the “choice” of abortion? These are unanswered questions, but I shudder to think of the consequences this law will sow. Will being pro-life one day be a hate crime in New York?
Lopez: As a longtime observer of these things, is Andrew Cuomo missing an opportunity to find common ground for actually helping women/children/families?
Gallagher: Again, it’s ironic that New York is moving to expand abortion when what needs to be expanded are maternity services, adoption promotion, child care opportunities, prenatal care, and other assistance for women and girls facing unplanned pregnancies. The governor claims to be “pro-choice,” but is only moving to expand one option for women. As a caring society, we need to be surrounding women with compassion, support and life-affirming resources, to empower them to bear their children.
Lopez: What gives you hope?
Gallagher: Young people. They are so smart and energized and passionate about building a culture of life! They are our future leaders, voters, and lawmakers, and they get it. I pray they continue to speak up and speak out, putting their faith into action.