Catholic and pro-life leaders have criticized New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for suggesting that pro-life individuals are extremists who “have no place in the state of New York.”
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York said the governor’s remarks were “unfortunate at best; inflammatory and outrageous at worst.”
The cardinal, speaking on his Sirius Satellite radio show, said that extremists are in fact “those who want to radically expand abortion, are not happy with the way things are, resistant to the constitutionally legal restraints that have been reasonably placed on abortion,” CBS New York reports.
Gov. Cuomo’s controversial remarks came in a Jan. 17 radio show interview, while he described his view of the Republican party as trying to determine whether its identity will be moderate or conservative.
“Are they these extreme conservatives who are right to life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are?” the governor stated. “Because if that’s who they are, and if they are the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”
However, Molly O'Connor, communications director for the New York-based Chiaroscuro Foundation, suggested that Cuomo's comments do not reflect the views of many people in the state.
“New York thrives on its diversity, including diversity of opinion,” O'Connor told CNA. “If I could tell Gov. Cuomo one thing, it would be a reminder: he represents constituents of all beliefs and backgrounds who call New York home, not just the 17 percent of New Yorkers who agree with him on unlimited abortion.”
Last year, the Chiaroscuro Foundation commissioned a statewide poll in New York on attitudes towards abortion. It found that the vast majority support some abortion restrictions. Among respondents, 86 percent were in favor of regulating abortion clinics to the same standards as other medical facilities. More than 75 percent approved of parental notification for minors seeking abortion and a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion.
Gov. Cuomo, a Democrat and self-identified Catholic, gained national attention last year with his push for a state bill that would have expanded and secured legal abortion in New York state.
The proposal would have declared abortion a “fundamental right” and allowed any licensed “health care practitioner,” including non-doctors, to perform abortions. It would have barred abortion regulations such as parental notification for a minor considering abortion.
The proposed legislation, which would have also protected abortionists who kill women during abortion procedures from being charged with manslaughter, ultimately failed in the state Senate.
New York State Right to Life executive director Lori Kehoe pointed to the governor's record on abortion in response to his recent remarks.
“If he wasn't serious, it would almost be laughable that Governor Cuomo, who still advocates for no protective regulation on up-to-birth abortion, would consider the pro-life position to be extreme,” she said in a statement.
“The facts speak for themselves. It's clear who is too extreme for New York, and it's certainly not the majority of New Yorkers who are opposed to expanding our already-extreme abortion law.”
Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo said the governor’s Jan. 17 comment was “so outrageous” that he laughed at first.
“Then it made me deeply concerned,” he said in a Jan. 22 video reflection posted on YouTube.
“New York State already has the highest rate of abortions in the country. The governor and those who support him on this position want to make us the abortion capital of the country. I don’t want that, you don’t want that, Pope Francis doesn’t want that.”
While Gov. Cuomo “is speaking of extremism,” Bishop Malone said, “I think that comment is the best example of extremism I have heard in a long time.”
He lamented the human toll of abortion, saying that since 1973, “56 million unborn children have had their lives legally taken from them.”
He also noted the Pope’s recent statement that abortion is “a symptom of a throw-away culture.”
“Let’s work so that no more unborn children are thrown away,” he said.