By Corinne A. Carey
When I first started working at the New York Civil Liberties Union, I wanted to explain to my devoutly Catholic mother why I was working to ensure that New York women have access to the full realm of reproductive health care, including access to abortion. I gave her Jennifer Baumgardner’s “Abortion & Life,” which tells the stories of women who have had abortions and all the varied and complex and heartbreaking reasons they do so.
After reading the book, my mom told me something I will never forget: “I never thought about the women.”
My mother considers herself pro-life, but after reading the book and talking to me about my work, I think she now understands that abortion is never an easy decision, particularly for a woman who suffers a serious health complication like cancer discovered late in her pregnancy, or who learns that her pregnancy has taken an unthinkable turn – her child will not survive.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Agenda includes a provision that would fix a flaw in New York’s abortion law that prevents health care providers in our state from delivering abortion care to women in such tragic circumstances. These are rare and heartbreaking cases. It’s easy to claim a strict anti-abortion stand only when you’ve never had to grapple with the realities of women’s lives and their health and the health of their families. Catholic women understand that better than anyone: According to the Guttmacher Institute, while 22 percent of women in this country are Catholic, 27 percent of all abortion patients identify as Catholic.
Listen to women, listen to their doctors, and you begin to understand why this change in the law is so important. Under New York law, a doctor who provides care in these cases faces criminal penalties. As a result, women are referred out of state. A woman who is mourning the loss of a child should not have to get on a plane and travel across the country to get the health care she needs. It’s unconscionable.
That’s why I appreciate Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy’s thoughtful deliberation and the conclusion that he’s reached to support changes to the law. Kennedy understands that the law should not prevent women from getting the care they need right here in New York State. This is not inconsistent with his Catholic faith, or my mother’s. In fact, it is a compassionate position – and compassion is what my faith has taught me.
A woman’s very personal decision should be between herself, her doctor and God. Preventing health care should not be the business of the state, and Kennedy understands that his job is to represent all of the women in his district: Catholic and non-Catholic alike.
Corinne A. Carey is assistant legislative director of the New York Civil Liberties Union and a graduate of the University at Buffalo School of Law.