Religious leaders in favor of abortion gathered on Tuesday to bless an abortion clinic in support of the Roe v. Wade ruling, the Supreme Court decision that mandated legalized abortion nationwide. One Catholic leader described the ceremony as “two-faced”.
Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Linda Scharf described the purpose of the event at a new 18,000 square-foot building to the Albany-based Times Union, saying, “It’s a blessing to demonstrate the support of the clergy.”
She said that clergy had long supported Planned Parenthood and the right “to make a personal decision based on their moral beliefs.”
"The clergy were instrumental in getting abortion services legalized in the United States and right here in Schenectady," she added. "I know a member of the clergy who was part of an underground who directed young women to safe abortions before Roe v. Wade."
Governor Eliot Spitzer, Lt. Governor David Paterson, and first lady Silda Wall Spitzer also affirmed their support for Roe v. Wade in a statement.
According to the Albany Times Union, Rev. Larry Phillips of Schenectady's Emmanuel-Friedens Church declared the ground "sacred and holy ... where women's voices and stories are welcomed, valued and affirmed; sacred ground where women are treated with dignity, supported in their role as moral decision-makers ... sacred ground where the violent voices of hatred and oppression are quelled."
Another minister prayed that the clinic be made a place of safety with a sense of sanctuary. A rabbi blew a religious musical instrument called a shofar “as a renewal of commitment” to “reproductive rights.”
All participants laid their hands on the building as another minister declared, “This is sacred ground.”
Kathleen Gallagher of the New York State Catholic Conference, told the Albany Times Union that the blessing was hypocritical.
"My gut reaction is that it's two-faced," Gallagher said. "For many years abortion proponents have been saying this is not a religious issue, you should keep religion out of this, and now all of a sudden they turn around and decide to bless an abortion clinic to gain respect for a procedure everybody knows is not worthy of respect."
Gallagher said that Governor Spitzer had acted “aggressively” to increase the availability of abortion, while “stomping on the rights” of Catholic hospitals and other religious healthcare providers. She said that the governor’s “Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act” would “raise abortion to the level of a fundamental right,” prohibiting virtually all restrictions and ensuring the availability of late-term abortions.