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New York's Catholic Governor Vows to Expand Abortion Rights

In his third annual State of the State address on January 9, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed to push through the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) which would expand abortion access in a state that already has the highest abortion rate in the nation.

CNA/EWTN News is reporting that Cuomo is packaging the new law along with other measures to improve women's equality in the state, such as equal pay for equal work, ending sexual harassment in the workplace, and strengthening laws against human trafficking of women."We passed marriage equality, let's make history again and pass women's equality in the state of New York!" Cuomo shouted during his speech on Wednesday. "Because it's her body, it's her choice!"

Pro-abortion groups who stand to profit by the move, such as NARAL Pro-Choice New York, praised the announcement, calling it "groundbreaking."

"The governor takes seriously the very real problems women face in this state, from limits on reproductive rights to barriers to critical health care services to inequality in the workplace and more," said Andrea Miller, president of the abortion-rights and women's rights group, to The Wall Street Journal.

Advocates for life were not impressed with what they see as an underhanded tactic designed to ram through an expansion of abortion access in the state.

"We are appalled that Gov. Cuomo is holding the needs of domestic violence and human trafficking victims hostage to his abortion expansion agenda," said Dennis Poust of the New York Catholic Conference. "He can't articulate a legitimate rationale for increasing abortion access in a state where nearly four in 10 pregnancies end in abortion, so he is tethering it to these important issues in hopes of sneaking it through. ... I hope people see it for what it is."

Cardinal Dolan was also quick to condemn the move. “I am hard pressed to think of a piece of legislation that is less needed or more harmful than this one,” he wrote in a January 9 letter to the governor, adding that the law would ultimately increase the state's already "scandalous" abortion rate.

Greg Pfundstein of the pro-life Chiaroscuro Foundation, said the notion that women need more access to abortion in New York is "simply preposterous."

He also pointed out that the governor's proposal flies in the face of voter sentiment which is heavily in favor of more - not less - restrictions on abortion.

“A 2011 poll conducted for the Chiaroscuro Foundation by McLaughlin and Associates found that two-thirds of New Yorkers (64%)-including 57% of pro-choice women- think the abortion rate in New York City is too high," Pfundstein said.

"The poll also found that strong majorities of New Yorkers, like strong majorities of Americans, support sensible restrictions on abortion: 69% of New Yorkers would support a law requiring informed consent; 59% support requiring parental consent for minors; 51% even support a 24 hour waiting period before an abortion. “New Yorkers support sensible restrictions to bring down New York City’s unconscionably high rate of abortion, and Governor Cuomo promises the exact opposite in the Reproductive Health Act. New York certainly needs abortion legislation, but the RHA is not it.”

In the meantime, Cardinal Dolan has offered to meet with Gov. Cuomo to discuss the issue. Acknowledging that the two disagree on the legality of abortion, Dolan said they must certainly be "in equally strong agreement that the abortion rate in New York is tragically high.”

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