Governor Eliot Spitzer’s “Freedom of Choice Act” (FOCA), also called the “Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act” (RHAPP), has kindled a fiery debate in New York. Democratic Senator Ruben Diaz (Bronx) declared earlier this month that the RHAPP “is one of the most dangerous and radical pieces of proposed legislation in New York State that I have ever seen.” Diaz urged all New Yorkers “to work diligently to oppose this bill to ensure its defeat.”
The RHAPP would permit late-term abortions — including partial-birth abortions — for any reason, without restriction. It would also allow any kind of health care practitioner, including dentists, podiatrists, and social workers, to perform abortions. The RHAPP would allow minors to have abortions without parental notice or parental consent.
Under the RHAPP, a 12-year old girl could have a late-term abortion performed on her by an under-qualified non-physician (such as a social worker) without her parents’ knowledge. The parents would have no opportunity to speak with the abortion provider about their daughter’s medical history, and they would have no opportunity to make arrangements for her follow-up care. “This presents a dangerous health and safety risk to women,” Sen. Diaz asserted.
The RHAPP would not make abortion safe and rare – on the contrary, it will promote abortion and allow under-qualified persons to perform abortions.
In addition to posing severe health risks, the RHAPP would also violate the fundamental right of religious liberty. The RHAPP would force religious hospitals, including Catholic hospitals, to perform abortions and provide contraceptive services. The RHAPP would also force all employers, including Catholic and other religious employers, to cover abortions in their insurance plans. Sen. Diaz stated that the RHAPP is “a full-scale attack on our Constitutional guarantee of free worship.”
The RHAPP would also make Catholic hospitals and social services vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits by women seeking abortion, and could result in state sanctions against the institutions.
The Catholic Church has intensified its campaign against the bill, the New York Sun reported. The archdiocese has already organized a petition drive, distributed over 100,000 information pamphlets to parishes all over NY, and produced an advocacy video. The NY bishops, including the Archbishop of New York, Edward Cardinal Egan, will be meeting with Spitzer next month, to urge Spitzer to reconsider the bill.
Under the RHAPP, “[t]he right to abortion would have more protection under New York’s law than the right to free exercise of religion,” says Edward Mechmann, a legal coordinator for the archdiocese.
Sen. Diaz summarized the situation in New York when he stated: “Let’s not let New York become the abortion capitol of the United States.”
An Act of New York State