New York bishops push back on bill proposing study of pro-life pregnancy centers

Pregnant woman baby Credit Unsplash CNA Unsplash.

The New York Catholic bishops have voiced opposition to a bill that would report on the state's pro-life pregnancy centers, saying its wording shows an inherent bias against the pregnancy centers.

"The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation and urges a negative vote," said the conference, which represents the bishops of the state, in a July 21 memorandum of opposition.

It said the legislation "would authorize the New York State Commissioner of Health to conduct a study and issue a report on the impact of pro-life pregnancy centers in the state. The pre-determined outcome of the 'study' is that such services are too 'limited' in denying pregnant women access to abortion."

Sponsored by Assembly Member Deborah Glick and Senator Brad Hoylman, the bill says it aims to examine "the unmet health and resource needs facing pregnant women in New York and the impact of limited service pregnancy centers."

The legislation passed through the New York State Assembly on Tuesday and headed to the state's Senate on the same day.

If signed into law, the New York State Commissioner of Health will be authorized to conduct a study to determine whether pro-life pregnancy centers are "offering accurate, non-coercive health care information and timely access to a comprehensive range of reproductive and sexual health care services."

The Catholic Conference suggested that the language in the bill suggests a bias before the study is even conducted.

"By labeling pro-life pregnancy centers as 'limited service pregnancy centers,' it appears the intention of the bill is to intimidate, silence and shut down pro-life pregnancy centers," the conference said.

"This legislation will force such centers, which rely primarily on volunteer workers, to turn over to the state voluminous data including funding sources, services, staffing, operational guidelines, client demographics and more, even if they receive no state subsidies," it added, noting, "The majority of pro-life pregnancy centers do not receive government funding."

The legislation would also develop a nine-member temporary task force to help the state's Department of Health conduct the study. Three members would be appointed by the governor, three by the speaker of the assembly, and three by the senate's temporary president. The task force would include an abortion provider and a professional in reproductive rights, health, or justice.

The Catholic Conference encouraged the New York Senate, in which Democrats hold about a two-thirds majority, to vote against the bill. They pointed to the state's high abortion rate, arguing that pregnant women should have support and options if they want to have a baby.

"A state that prides itself on being 'pro-choice' should not be taking legislative action to obstruct the choice of childbirth," the conference said.

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