“Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman’s right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion. With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body.” These are the words of Governor Andrew Cuomo after signing New York’s Reproductive Health Act on Tuesday night, January 22.
The bill not only assured access to abortion, it also removed restrictions for abortions after 24 weeks. It is now permissible for a woman to abort her child at any time in her pregnancy including the third trimester. The abortion can be performed if the child is not considered viable or under a non-existent definition of risk to the health of the mother. In addition, an abortion will not have to be performed by a doctor. Physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners, and midwives are also allowed to perform abortions.
I cannot say that I am surprised at this decision, but I was deeply saddened to see the cheering that took place in the New York State Senate after the bill passed. Seriously – there was a standing ovation at the passing of this bill. I am pained over the spiritual blindness of these men and women. In the guise or protecting the health of women, they applaud the intentional deaths of little girls (and boys).
I grieve over this decision. I am angered over it. In the guise of protecting the rights of women, New York has passed the most aggressive abortion law in the nation, not just entrenching the Roe v. Wade decision but expanding it. In a state where lethal injection for convicted murderers is banned, the lethal injection of an innocent child in the womb is not only permitted but celebrated. Of course, not all New Yorkers supported this bill, but the majority of their elected state leaders did.
Because I am a man, there are those who would say that I should have no voice in the abortion debate. It’s true that I have never been faced with an unplanned pregnancy, but I am not commenting as a man; I comment as a human. I am concerned for the soon-to-be mother, and I believe we should do all we can to support her in the pregnancy and afterward, but there is an innocent party who has no voice for himself or herself. Someone needs to speak up for the unborn baby who does not yet have a voice of her or his own.
As a pastor, I have counseled with women who made the choice to end a pregnancy. At the time, it seemed to be the only choice they had. I’m sure there are exceptions out there, but each of these women look back on that decision with regret and grief. Many of them are still working through that grief, and I am relieved that our local crisis pregnancy center and our recovery ministry provide resources for them. There is hope. There is healing.
There are a great many factors that have led to a culture that dismisses and devalues life – too many to list. But I am grateful for those who speak up and stand up for the vulnerable, whether they are babies in the womb, senior adults in nursing homes, severely disabled children, teenagers being sexually trafficked, young women being kidnapped from villages in Africa by radical Muslim groups, Syrian children being gassed in an uncivil civil war, undocumented immigrants facing horrific work conditions, or innocents being gunned down in the crossfire of gang turf wars. It would be easy to put our heads in the sand, but as followers of Jesus that is just not an option.
Compassion compels us to act. That may mean you join with hundreds of thousands in a march for life. It may mean you volunteer or support a local crisis pregnancy center. It may mean you donate to or volunteer at a local food pantry. You could visit a local nursing home to encourage a resident, volunteer to read to children in a low-performing school, write emails or make phone calls to your senator or representative, run for office yourself — the list of possibilities is endless.
In all this, remember that our fight for life on each front is not hopeless. A recent Marist poll indicated that regardless of whether a person considered herself or himself pro-choice or pro-life, only 15% believed that abortion should be legal for any reason at any point during a woman’s pregnancy. In other words, the action by the state of New York is out of step with the mood of the country at large. And even though an Iowa judge blocked the implementation of the law, last year that state’s legislature passed and Governor Kim Reynolds signed a law making it illegal to perform an abortion once the child’s heartbeat has been detected. In other words, efforts are being made to honor life by restricting access to abortion. Both the number of abortion clinics and the numbered of recorded abortions has been on a slow decline the last several years.
So, what should our approach be. I offer a few suggestions:
(1) PRAY. It is by far the most impactful thing you can do.
(2) VOTE. Know where the candidates stand when it comes to valuing life.
(3) SUPPORT. Give to and support organizations that promote and protect life.
(4) VOLUNTEER. Give some of your time through your church or other groups that respect life at every stage.
(5) SPEAK OUT. Don’t be silent. Be firm and persistent, but be as respectful as you are able to elected officials and people in general.