Notre Dame President Blasts Andrew Cuomo over Abortion Law

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks during a press conference at his Midtown Manhattan office, September 14, 2018 in New York City. Cuomo discussed his primary night election victory as well as a range of other topics. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer/Getty

Father John I. Jenkins, the president of the University of Notre Dame, slammed New York governor Andrew Cuomo Thursday for legislation expanding abortion access and removing protections for mothers and babies.

In recent weeks, the governor of New York “signed into law a bill sweeping away protections for unborn — and some born — children,” Father Jenkins said in a statement. “New York law now allows abortions any time up until delivery for vaguely defined reasons of ‘health,’ including social well-being.”

Father Jenkins noted that the laws that have protected unborn and new life “did not arise from some obscure ecclesiastical doctrine or particular ideology, but from a moral instinct we all share to care for innocent human life,” countering the governor’s claims that opposition to abortion is merely a “Catholic” issue.

“The great threat of the New York law is not only that it will remove protections for children in or recently out of the womb as well as for the mothers’ lives, but that it will also further numb this moral instinct so central to our common life,” Father Jenkins said.

History “is full of examples where the lives of one or another group is deemed not worthy of protection — whether it is the physically disabled, the cognitively impaired, certain ethnic groups or the old and infirm,” Jenkins said, raising the question of who will be the next group to forfeit its basic rights.

The new legislation has been stripped of “provisions that require the mother’s consent, that allow manslaughter charges against an abortionist who causes the woman’s death during an abortion, that discourage self-induced abortions and — shockingly — that require care for a child born alive during an attempted late-term abortion,” the priest noted.

In his statement, Father Jenkins cited the late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey from an address he delivered at Notre Dame.

“A pro-life consensus,” the governor said at the time, “grows every time someone looks at a sonogram.”

The university president did not cite, however, another key address given at Notre Dame on September 13, 1984 by then-governor Mario Cuomo, the father of Governor Andrew Cuomo.

In that address, titled “Religious Belief and Public Morality: A Catholic Governor’s Perspective,” Mr. Cuomo introduced the now-familiar justification for Catholic politicians who support pro-abortion legislation, namely that one can be personally opposed to abortion while refusing to let this opposition influence legislative decisions.

“I can, if so inclined, demand some kind of law against abortion not because my Bishops say it is wrong but because I think that the whole community, regardless of its religious beliefs, should agree on the importance of protecting life,” Mr. Cuomo said.

“But should I? Is it helpful? Is it essential to human dignity? Does it promote harmony and understanding? Or does it divide us so fundamentally that it threatens our ability to function as a pluralistic community?” he asked.

“When should I argue to make my religious value your morality? My rule of conduct your limitation?” he continued, suggesting that fighting for the rights of the unborn is a “religious value” with little or nothing to do with justice.

Moreover, Cuomo argued, the “values derived from religious belief will not — and should not — be accepted as part of the public morality unless they are shared by the pluralistic community at large, by consensus.”

By this logic, one must suppose that if a majority of the population was in favor of black slavery, a good Catholic politician should not oppose that majority just because his religion teaches that all people are fundamentally equal. Or if a majority of the population believed that wife-beating was legitimate, why should a Catholic legislator stand in their way? He can always abstain from such activities, but why should he impose this “religious value” on those who do not share it?

Mario Cuomo’s son Andrew has continued expounding the same arguments in his full-bore support for expanded abortion rights. Like his father, he insists that opposition to abortion is merely a religious value, a tenet of Catholic teaching that should not influence one’s political decisions.

It seems, however, that after 35 years, Notre Dame is no longer listening.

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