Democrats for Life challenge New York abortion law

Gov Andrew Cuomo Credit Pat Arnow via Flickr CC BY SA 20 CNA US Catholic News 1 24 13 Gov. Andrew Cuomo. | Pat Arnow via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

A group of pro-life Democrats is protesting radical abortion legislation in New York, as well as assertions that there is no place for them in the Democratic Party.

"New York women do not actually need greater access to abortion, but a more supportive system to allow real choice should they want to bring their pregnancies to term," said Democrats for Life of America in a Jan. 17 statement.

"Looser abortion restrictions will do nothing to help women who feel financially strapped or who lack family support and often turn to abortion as a last resort," the group added.

The statements come in response to the reintroduction of New York's "Reproductive Health Act" to the state senate. Catholic governor Andrew Cuomo has supported the measure as part of a larger plan to advance "women's equality" within the state.

Democrats for Life also voiced strong objections to New York senator Jeff Klein's suggestion that in order to be a true Democrat, one must support the abortion expansion.

"It is clear that Senator Klein does not fully understand the importance of diversity within our party, the strength of a big tent policy, or the real needs of women," the organization said, noting that "there are 21 million Democrats who self-identify as pro-life."

The statement pointed to Gallup polls in recent years showing that 84 percent of Democrats support informed consent laws and 61 percent support parental consent requirements for minors seeking abortions.

A majority of Democrats also supported a 24-hour waiting period before an abortion and a ban on partial-birth abortions.

Democrats for Life rejected the proposed "reproductive health" bill, calling it the "most sweeping abortion legislation in the nation."

The group explained that the bill would allow abortions throughout all nine months of pregnancy for virtually any reason with almost no restrictions.

Many of the potentially far-reaching consequences of the legislation are due to provisions that circumvent abortion limitations when necessary to protect a woman's health.

In the historic Doe v. Bolton case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that "health of the mother" provisions can include nearly any justification for abortion, including stress, morning sickness or a general decrease in quality of life.

Critics of the bill argue that this would result in nearly unrestricted abortions in the state, allowing late-term abortions, permitting non-doctors to perform abortions and rendering abortion limitations meaningless.

Concerns have also been raised over the bill's conscience protections, which may be too narrowly crafted to allow hospitals and clinics to continue receiving state funds if they refuse to perform abortions.

The proposed legislation would also change the state's definition of manslaughter so that it would no longer apply if a woman was killed from an abortion. 

Democrats for Life criticized these radical aspects of bill, arguing that they are "out of touch with the views of most Americans, out of touch with the views of most Democrats, and could hamper real reform for women's rights."

"New York City has the highest abortion rate in the nation with 40 percent of pregnancies ending in abortion," the organization pointed out. "Among non-Hispanic blacks, 60 percent of pregnancies end in abortion, and among non-Hispanic black teens that number grows to 72 percent."

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"Even a majority of pro-choice women believe the abortion rate is too high," the group said. "How will greater access and less safe abortions help women?"

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