New York

Dolan CNN slider

Published on June 19th, 2018

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the New York State Catholic Conference, strongly criticized the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents who entered the country illegally at the nation’s southern border. The cardinal made the comments to Chris Cuomo on his CNN program Cuomo Prime Time June 15. Watch the entire interview, as the cardinal addresses Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ use of a quote from St. Paul to justify the policy, and to say “we need a little heart here, we need some tenderness.”

Also, don’t miss this strong op/ed in the New York Daily News by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, vice president of the Catholic Conference.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/06/cardinal-dolan-blasts-family-separation-border-policy/

Cardinal Dolan blasts family separation border policy

Published on June 19th, 2018

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York and president of the New York State Catholic Conference, strongly criticized the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents who entered the country illegally at the nation’s southern border. The cardinal made the comments to Chris Cuomo on his CNN program Cuomo Prime Time June 15. Watch the entire interview, as the cardinal addresses Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ use of a quote from St. Paul to justify the policy, and to say “we need a little heart here, we need some tenderness.”

Also, don’t miss this strong op/ed in the New York Daily News by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, vice president of the Catholic Conference.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/06/cardinal-dolan-blasts-family-separation-border-policy/

We need consistent messages about suicide prevention

Published on June 8th, 2018

Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

By Kathleen M. Gallagher

The recent suicides of designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain highlight a deeply disturbing trend in the United States. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that suicides are climbing in the United States. The suicide rate went up more than 30% in half of the states around the country since 1999. In New York State, the increase was 29%. In just one year alone (2016) in the U.S., 45,000 lives were lost to suicide. It is now the tenth leading cause of death in the country. For certain this is a public health crisis.

And I can’t help but think about how the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in some states may be contributing to this crisis. There’s a thing called “suicide contagion,” and it’s real – exposure to, and acceptance of, suicide will increase the risk of suicide to others. Take Vermont, for example, which enacted doctor-assisted suicide in 2013; their suicide rate has jumped almost 49%.

I recommend this page from the CDC website, which offers all the statistics, plus excellent tips on preventing suicide. Among the tips are these, which I note with some irony:

  • Promote safe and supportive environments. This includes safely storing medications…to reduce access among people at risk. But wait, physician-assisted suicide encourages terminally ill suicidal people to bring those very medications home with them!
  • Teach coping and problem-solving skills to help people manage challenges with their…health or other concerns. Physician-assisted suicide tells patients with health problems the very opposite – they can’t manage, so give up, lose hope, end it all.
  • Offer activities that bring people together so they feel connected and not alone. A policy of physician-assisted suicide abandons people and leaves them isolated and afraid. We need to engage with them and accompany them so they will not feel hopeless.

The same CDC website lists the 12 warning signs that someone might be at risk of suicide. The first one listed is “feeling like a burden,” one of the top reasons given by terminal patients for wanting life-ending drugs in those states which have legalized assisted suicide.

This isn’t rocket science. Suicide is suicide is suicide, and we should be working hard to reduce its incidence among all people, for any reason. And that includes terminally ill people who may feel devastated, depressed, alone, and burdensome. We need consistent messages about suicide prevention.

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Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/06/we-need-consistent-messages-about-suicide-prevention/

A.6823-C, Paulin /S.5988-B, Lanza: In relation to the sex trafficking of children

Published on June 8th, 2018

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced legislation would eliminate the need to prove force, fraud, or coercion beyond a reasonable doubt in cases of children who are prostituted for sex by sex traffickers who are age 21 or older. This legislation builds on New York’s current anti-trafficking laws and gives prosecutors the tools they need to crack down on this horrendous crime, which is a grave assault on human dignity.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports this bill.

Recent news stories from various parts of New York State reveal that very young children continue to be lured and trapped by pimps, who sell their bodies for sex. Twelve-year-old children are clearly victims of the trafficking industry, and the law should treat them as victims. They should not be compelled, at great trauma, to testify against their traffickers to prove force, fraud or coercion.

This bill would align New York State law with federal law to ensure that any child under the age of 18 who engages in commercial sex is considered a victim of sex trafficking, and any person who promotes and benefits from exploiting such child is considered a sex trafficker.

The New York State Catholic Conference supported the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act which was signed into law in 2015, and we support this legislation to further remove barriers to prosecuting the predatory traffickers who sexually exploit children. We urge your favorable vote on this legislation.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/06/s-5988-a-lanza-a-6823-b-paulin-in-relation-to-the-sex-trafficking-of-children/

S.1858-B, Bonacic / A.3088-B, Abinanti: In relation to authorizing summer camps to hire certain licensed professionals to provide services

Published on June 7th, 2018

Memorandum of Support

The New York State Catholic Conference supports this legislation that allows children’s overnight camps, summer day camps, and traveling summer day camps which serve children with special needs to contract with certain specified licensed health care professionals in order to better serve the mental and physical needs of children during their summer camp experience.

The State Education Department currently prohibits any licensed professional from practicing their profession while under the supervision of a non-licensed professional in that particular field. Chapter 214 of the Laws of 2012 partially remedied this issue by allowing camps to employ a physician, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, registered nurse, or licensed practical nurse or EMT.

This bill would permit camps to employ social workers, other mental health care professionals, and physical therapists to serve children with special needs at summer camps. Not allowing children’s camps to hire licensed professionals specially trained in these areas does a disservice to our children.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports this legislation to allow camps to offer the best possible service available to children that need them during their summer camp experience.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/06/s-1858-b-bonacic-a-3088-b-abinanti-in-relation-to-authorizing-summer-camps-to-hire-certain-licensed-professionals-to-provide-services/

Re: A.9903 Cusick / S.8175 Marcellino In relation to the calculation of nonpublic school aid

Published on June 6th, 2018

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced legislation would clarify that the State Education Department may continue to utilize the nearly four decades old “instructional time” standard as the basis for providing reimbursement to nonpublic schools for their participation in the mandated services aid program.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports this measure and strongly urges enactment of this legislation.

Mandated Services Aid (MSA) was enacted in 1974 as a way for the state to support nonpublic schools which educate nearly 500,000 students across the state. In the late 1970’s, the State Education Department established a series of “parameters” or formulas to simplify the administration of the program and to ensure the program was fair to both taxpayers and the nonpublic schools. One set of parameters called for the use of “instructional time” in determining the “average hourly rate” of the employees involved in complying with the various mandates. SED justified the use of instructional time because it is associated with the compulsory education requirement, has been used continuously over the years as the basis for aid to public schools and it provides consistency and predictability in aid to nonpublic schools.

Instructional time equates to 5 hours of instruction per day for grades K-6, 5.5 hours per day for grades 7-12, as well as 180 days in the school year. Nonpublic schools are required to provide a substantial equivalent amount of the instructional hours and days as are required of public schools. In recent years, in an effort to be more exacting in the administration of the program, SED began scrutinizing the calendars and schedules of select nonpublic schools and required those schools to use additional hours and days in the calculation of their aid – resulting in a reduction of aid. Numerous schools were forced to accept the aid cut in order to receive the desperately needed balance of their reimbursement.

The 2016-17 enacted State Budget included language to permit schools to continue to receive aid based on a 5 / 5.5 hour school day – averting an approximate 20 percent cut in aid to the schools under review. The 2016 language, however, addressed only the “hours of the day” and did not explicitly reference the “days of the year.” While the provisions of the above-referenced legislation were included in both the Assembly and Senate one-house Aid to Localities bills, it was not adopted in the final state budget.

This legislation is necessary to ensure that religious and independent schools do not receive a cut in aid, especially as state support aid to public and charter schools is increasing. The New York State Catholic Conference urges enactment of this measure as soon as possible to ensure that aid applications (which have been held by SED) can be processed and that desperately needed payments can be made to schools.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/06/re-a-9903-cusick-s-8175-marcellino-in-relation-to-the-calculation-of-nonpublic-school-aid/

A.10427-A Barron, et al / S.8503 Parker: In relation to admission to the specialized high schools in the City of New York

Published on June 6th, 2018

Memorandum of Opposition

The above-referenced legislation would eliminate the current competitive and objective scholastic achievement test used for determining admission to the specialized high schools of the City of New York in lieu of a system of multiple subjective measures and quotas. Further, the measure also guarantees a considerable number of seats at such schools for 8th grade students attending only public schools, thereby creating a significant disadvantage for 8th grade students in religious and independent schools who would otherwise be eligible to attend such specialized high schools. This measure is discriminatory and counterproductive to real educational opportunity.

The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation.

On the surface, this measure appears to be intended to expand educational opportunities for educationally disadvantaged students by effectively guaranteeing seats for such students at the city’s specialized high schools. “Guaranteeing” seats at such schools for under-represented students does an enormous disservice to these students, their families and our communities because it ignores the systemic failure of our educational system to provide equal opportunity to all students.

Equal educational and economic opportunity must be available to all children so that their inherent human dignity and potential can be fully realized. For these reasons and for more than 200 years, the Catholic schools of this state have opened their doors to any and all who seek the kind of high quality education that expands the mind and shapes character. Our schools have a long-standing record of helping economically disadvantaged students break the cycle of poverty and live a productive and fulfilling life. Many of these students successfully competed to enter the city’s specialized high schools, went to college and live prosperous lives today. These students weren’t “guaranteed” a slot. They were given an opportunity at an early age for a high-quality education, they worked hard and they competed with their peers to be where they are today.

But clearly much more needs to be done if we are to ensure that all children, regardless of their economic status, have equal access to the city’s specialized high schools. One critically important step would be to enact a state program to expand the number of scholarships available to children from low-income families so more children will have access to high quality schools available to families of means.

Lowering the academic performance standards necessary to gain access to the specialized high schools will no doubt change the make up of the student body at these schools but will do no good in the long run. Moreover, arbitrarily limiting the number of seats available at the specialized high schools for which religious and independent 8th graders can compete creates a disincentive for families to enroll their children in religious and independent schools. This will further burden an already overcrowded public school system that struggles to prepare all its students for on-going education.

The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this measure and urges enactment of a comprehensive program giving all children access to the high-quality school of their choice.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/06/a-10427-a-barron-et-al-s-8503-parker-in-relation-to-admission-to-the-specialized-high-schools-in-the-city-of-new-york/

CVA slider

Published on June 5th, 2018

Former Court of Appeals Judge: Child Victims Act Shields Public Entities in Lookback

Judge Susan Phillips Read

The proposed Child Victims Act creates two unequal classes of sexual abuse victims – those who would be granted another opportunity to sue and those who would be granted no such opportunity, according to a former judge of New York State’s top court.

The Child Victims Act (A5885-A/S6575) bill, sponsored by Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, would shield public schools and municipalities from lawsuits for past sexual abuse claims while holding private schools, religious organizations and charities accountable, according to a new analysis authored by Susan Phillips Read, former Associate Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

The bill proposes to extend both the prospective civil and criminal statutes of limitations for claims of child sexual abuse. It would also create a controversial one-year window to revive time-barred claims of abuse from decades past. Whether this retroactive window applies to public institutions was the question Judge Read was asked to address in her brief. “My answer is ‘No,’” she stated unequivocally.

To illustrate her point, Judge Read wrote: “For example, if this bill were enacted into law, a 34-year old man whose high school wrestling coach sexually abused him 20 years ago would not be time-barred from recovering damages from his high school if the man attended a private school and sued within the one-year window, but he would be precluded from recovering damages if he attended a public school instead of a private school.”

Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, which solicited the analysis, said the Hoylman/Rosenthal bill creates an indefensible double standard in its disparate treatment of public and private institutions.

“In claiming to remedy an injustice, Sen. Hoylman and Assembly Member Rosenthal would create a pernicious further injustice, one perpetrated by the state Legislature on many survivors. While the sponsors have professed that their bill does not shield public schools from exposure, Judge Read’s comprehensive analysis clearly shows otherwise.”

“Tragically, a child abused in a public school and a child abused in a private school is still a child abused. He or she should be entitled to identical legal remedies. We understand the sponsors’ desire to shield public schools and government agencies from potentially billions of dollars in liability, but that concern, while valid, cannot justify unequal treatment of survivors and public and private institutions.”

The reason for the disparity is that the state grants public entities a layer of protection from civil lawsuits for which private institutions are not eligible. State law requires plaintiffs to file a “notice of claim” declaring an intention to sue within 90 days of an incident. Failure to do so renders a claim forever time barred, regardless of the statute of limitations. While the Hoylman/Rosenthal bill removes notice of claim protections in the sections of the bill that address future abuse cases, it is silent on the matter in Section 3, which is the only section of the bill that would create a one-year window to file lawsuits otherwise barred by the statute of limitations.

“It is unlikely that a New York court would consider the omission as anything other than intentional,” Judge Read wrote.

Judge Read said if the bill is enacted as drafted, survivors who wish to sue public entities “will end up without a remedy as happened in California.” She explained that in that state in 2002, after the Legislature passed a retroactive window which sponsors claimed was all-inclusive, the California Supreme Court ruled that a school district could not be sued because the victim did not file a timely notice of claim as required by California statute.

A decade later, when the California Legislature again passed a similar window bill that again did not remove the notice of claim barrier, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it, stating in his veto message that the new bill “does not change the significant inequity that exists between public and private entities.” He concluded, “This extraordinary extension of the statute of limitations, which legislators chose not to apply to public institutions, is simply too open-ended and unfair.”

“Sexual abuse is a crime that is not confined to private institutions. We as a society have a moral obligation to prevent it and to punish abusers,” Mr. Barnes said. “Doing so requires a comprehensive approach that treats all victims and survivors equally and holds public and private institutions equally accountable. The New York State Legislature must not pass and Governor Cuomo must not sign any bill that would create two classes of victims.”

The Catholic Conference represents the Bishops of New York State in matters of public policy.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/06/former-court-of-appeals-judge-child-victims-act-shields-public-entities-in-lookback/

Former Court of Appeals Judge: Child Victims Act Shields Public Entities in Lookback

Published on June 5th, 2018

Former Court of Appeals Judge: Child Victims Act Shields Public Entities in Lookback

Judge Susan Phillips Read

The proposed Child Victims Act creates two unequal classes of sexual abuse victims – those who would be granted another opportunity to sue and those who would be granted no such opportunity, according to a former judge of New York State’s top court.

The Child Victims Act (A5885-A/S6575) bill, sponsored by Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, would shield public schools and municipalities from lawsuits for past sexual abuse claims while holding private schools, religious organizations and charities accountable, according to a new analysis authored by Susan Phillips Read, former Associate Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court.

The bill proposes to extend both the prospective civil and criminal statutes of limitations for claims of child sexual abuse. It would also create a controversial one-year window to revive time-barred claims of abuse from decades past. Whether this retroactive window applies to public institutions was the question Judge Read was asked to address in her brief. “My answer is ‘No,’” she stated unequivocally.

To illustrate her point, Judge Read wrote: “For example, if this bill were enacted into law, a 34-year old man whose high school wrestling coach sexually abused him 20 years ago would not be time-barred from recovering damages from his high school if the man attended a private school and sued within the one-year window, but he would be precluded from recovering damages if he attended a public school instead of a private school.”

Richard E. Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, which solicited the analysis, said the Hoylman/Rosenthal bill creates an indefensible double standard in its disparate treatment of public and private institutions.

“In claiming to remedy an injustice, Sen. Hoylman and Assembly Member Rosenthal would create a pernicious further injustice, one perpetrated by the state Legislature on many survivors. While the sponsors have professed that their bill does not shield public schools from exposure, Judge Read’s comprehensive analysis clearly shows otherwise.”

“Tragically, a child abused in a public school and a child abused in a private school is still a child abused. He or she should be entitled to identical legal remedies. We understand the sponsors’ desire to shield public schools and government agencies from potentially billions of dollars in liability, but that concern, while valid, cannot justify unequal treatment of survivors and public and private institutions.”

The reason for the disparity is that the state grants public entities a layer of protection from civil lawsuits for which private institutions are not eligible. State law requires plaintiffs to file a “notice of claim” declaring an intention to sue within 90 days of an incident. Failure to do so renders a claim forever time barred, regardless of the statute of limitations. While the Hoylman/Rosenthal bill removes notice of claim protections in the sections of the bill that address future abuse cases, it is silent on the matter in Section 3, which is the only section of the bill that would create a one-year window to file lawsuits otherwise barred by the statute of limitations.

“It is unlikely that a New York court would consider the omission as anything other than intentional,” Judge Read wrote.

Judge Read said if the bill is enacted as drafted, survivors who wish to sue public entities “will end up without a remedy as happened in California.” She explained that in that state in 2002, after the Legislature passed a retroactive window which sponsors claimed was all-inclusive, the California Supreme Court ruled that a school district could not be sued because the victim did not file a timely notice of claim as required by California statute.

A decade later, when the California Legislature again passed a similar window bill that again did not remove the notice of claim barrier, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it, stating in his veto message that the new bill “does not change the significant inequity that exists between public and private entities.” He concluded, “This extraordinary extension of the statute of limitations, which legislators chose not to apply to public institutions, is simply too open-ended and unfair.”

“Sexual abuse is a crime that is not confined to private institutions. We as a society have a moral obligation to prevent it and to punish abusers,” Mr. Barnes said. “Doing so requires a comprehensive approach that treats all victims and survivors equally and holds public and private institutions equally accountable. The New York State Legislature must not pass and Governor Cuomo must not sign any bill that would create two classes of victims.”

The Catholic Conference represents the Bishops of New York State in matters of public policy.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/06/former-court-of-appeals-judge-child-victims-act-shields-public-entities-in-lookback/

Testimony Regarding Gestational Surrogacy

Published on May 24th, 2018

Photo by Joey Thompson on Unsplash

Following is testimony of the New York State Catholic Conference submitted in writing to a hearing of the Assembly Committee on Judiciary and Assembly Committee on Health regarding Gestational Surrogacy , 250 Broadway, New York, N.Y.

May 24, 2018

Chairman Dinowitz, Chairman Gottfried, and Honorable Members of the Assembly Judiciary and Health Committees, thank you for the opportunity to present testimony on the topic of compensated gestational carrier surrogacy contracts.

Currently, legislation (A.6959-A) is pending which would legalize commercial “gestational surrogacy,” or “collaborative reproduction,” which involves a monetary contractual arrangement whereby a woman who is genetically unrelated to the child, will bear that child for someone else, with the intent of relinquishing the child at birth. Human embryos are created in a laboratory through in vitro fertilization (IVF), using egg and sperm that may or may not be from the intended parents, then transferred to the uterus of the surrogate mother.

At the present time, New York Domestic Relations Law declares such surrogacy contracts to be contrary to public policy, void, and unenforceable. Baby brokers who assist in arranging such contracts are liable for up to a civil penalty of $10,000 and forfeiture of the fee received in brokering the contract; a second violation constitutes a felony. Importantly, this policy was signed into law in 1992 by then-Governor Mario M. Cuomo, at the unanimous recommendation of the NYS Task Force on Life and the Law, with bipartisan legislative support. The New York State Catholic Conference advocated for this policy in collaboration with the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women and other diverse voices.

In December of 2017 a deeply divided NYS Task Force on Life and the Law released a new report on surrogacy entitled “Revisiting Surrogate Parenting: Analysis and Recommendations for Public Policy on Gestational Surrogacy.” Fifteen of the members signed a majority report recommending a repeal of New York’s ban on commercial gestational surrogacy and a complex web of regulations governing the practice. Seven members signed a minority report recommending that New York’s ban be maintained. We concur with the minority and their well-documented report, attach it with this testimony, and urge that you read it in full. We summarize here the primary harms of surrogacy as detailed in that minority report.

Surrogacy treats children as commodities to be manufactured, bought and sold. Children are human beings with inherent rights and dignity, not products to be purchased and sold. As the minority notes in its report: “When a surrogacy contract provides that a lower fee is paid to the surrogate when the child is stillborn than when he or she is born alive, or when it provides that some fees otherwise due are withheld until the surrogate surrenders the child to the intended parents, it is hard for an objective observer to say that all of the payments are for the surrogate’s services during pregnancy” and not for the child.

We believe that the language of the current legislation (A.6959-A) is dishonest and misleading when it states in Section 581-502 (a) that “Under no circumstances may compensation be paid …for the relinquishment of a parental interest in a child.” The relinquishment of the parental interest in the child is the specific reason that the legislation exists and that a monetary transaction will occur. “Compensated gestational carrier surrogacy” is baby selling.

Removing New York’s prohibition on surrogacy contracts would be inconsistent with numerous statutes currently on the books in our state. Our laws reject the sale of human organs, prohibit the selling of babies, refuse to recognize contracts to surrender parental rights prospectively, or to have an abortion. Our laws also limit reimbursements in traditional adoptions, out of a recognition of the dangers of economic exploitation.

Just as New York State Public Health Law Section 4307 prohibits the sale and purchase of human body parts, the renting of a female womb and the purchasing of the child within the womb should be prohibited.

Surrogacy intentionally fractures families. Surrogacy encourages the creation of children conceived with the intent to separate them from one or all of their biological parents. It therefore deliberately divides the genetic, gestational and social relationships of children with their parents.

When any sperm, egg and uterus can be ‘combined’ to ‘make’ a baby, the potential exists for a child to have up to six parents — the male sperm, two female eggs (one for the nuclear DNA, and one for the mitochondrial DNA) the surrogate mom (womb), the intended dad, and the intended mom (or second dad, or second mom).

The surrogacy arrangement compels an unnatural and unhealthy act: telling a mother not to bond with the baby she bears in her womb. For more than a century, prenatal psychologists have been researching the imprint that the time spent in utero leaves on the human being. What children experience in the womb in which they are carried will deeply affect their physical and mental health. As the baby develops in the surrogate mother’s uterus, he or she is sustained by blood vessels the surrogate has developed exclusively for this child, and is fed nutrients including calcium from the surrogate’s own bones. Decades after that baby is born, the surrogate mother will likely retain some of the baby’s cells in her body, and likewise, the child will retain some of the surrogate’s in his or hers. No one can seriously claim that a gestational surrogate can prevent herself from bonding with the child she carries for another, as if she is simply a breeder bus that a passenger hops on for a few months, then hops off into the waiting arms of the “intended” parents.

For all newborn babies, it is highly stressful for them to be separated from their birth mothers. Permanent separation, as in the case of gestational surrogacy, can result in confusion, pain, loss and abandonment felt by donor-conceived children, who may never know their true origins or experience the continuation of the natural parent-child bond that was forged over a nine-month period. The personal testimonies found at www.anonymousus.org are enlightening, and many of them tragic, in this regard.

Surrogacy exploits women, particularly poor women. Reproductive commerce is human exploitation. Commercialization denigrates the dignity of women by degrading pregnancy to a service. We believe that women deserve to be treated as more than incubators. Every woman is a unique human being, endowed with inherent human dignity.

In states where surrogacy is permitted, surrogate services are advertised, surrogates are recruited — most often on college campuses, in poor neighborhoods, and on military bases — and operating agencies make large profits. The minority members of the New York Task Force on Life and the Law did the math and found that a surrogate mother in a typical pregnancy would be earning far less than New York’s minimum wage per hour.

When a poor woman is bearing a child for a couple who is much better off financially, it is an unequal transaction, and that can easily involve coercion, uninformed consent, and violations of human rights. Surrogacy is not without serious health risks to women. Those who provide the eggs are flooded with fertility drugs for superovulation and risk ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, which can be life-threatening. Those who are surrogates must receive multiple injections of synthetic hormones for embryonic implantation, some of which have not been approved by the FDA for fertility use. If the pregnancy is successful, the surrogate then must endure nine months of challenges and potential health problems, and a battery of prenatal tests that may lead to contractually-obligated abortion or “fetal reduction” if too many embryos grow in her uterus.

Those who live in dire poverty do not have genuine “freedom of choice” in making a decision to carry another person’s child. The social context within which women make these often difficult decisions must be taken into account. For example, military wives tend to get married and have babies at very young ages, are low-income, are often alone while their husbands serve overseas, and are concentrated in states with large military bases such as Texas, California and Florida. Surrogacy brokers and fertility clinics flourish in these states, and military publications like Stars Stripes and Army Times carry surrogacy advertisements with the lure of easy money.

This is not to suggest that women lack the capacity to make informed decisions, nor to be disparaging toward women, nor to treat them as victims. It is simply to state that there are enormous pressures put on women, particularly lower-income women, and often, they are not fully informed of the risks involved with surrogacy. That is not free choice; that is exploitation of a particularly vulnerable population for their reproductive capacity, driven by profit-making private enterprise.

Surrogacy contracts, which would be legal and recognized under the terms of pending legislation (A.6959-A), are grossly imbalanced against the surrogate mother. Standard contracts require her to undergo invasive tests and treatments, forego sexual relations with her spouse for certain periods of time, and compel her to consent to an abortion if demanded by the “intended” parents. The contracts also contain clauses that would impose significant monetary penalties on the surrogate if she fails to uphold all of these requirements. This is free choice?

Most countries, including all of Europe, prohibit surrogacy contracts. New York State should follow the lead of the European Parliament, which in December 2015 condemned all forms of surrogacy, both altruistic and commercial, as a violation of basic human rights. It declared that surrogacy:

“…undermines the human dignity of the woman, since her body and its reproductive functions are used as a commodity; considers that the practice of gestational surrogacy which involved reproductive exploitation and use of the human body for financial or other gain, in particular in the case of vulnerable women in developing countries, shall be prohibited and treated as a matter of urgency in human rights instruments.”  (Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World and the European Policy on the Matter, Rights of Women and Girls, Paragraph 114)

Insufficient evidence of safety. The 2017 Minority Report of the NYS Task Force on Life and the Law is meticulous in documenting the scarcity of long-term, large-scale studies of the effects of gestational surrogacy on the children born of the process, the surrogate mothers who carry them, and the siblings of the children born. Measurable evidence, they say, is “scanty, equivocal, sometimes biased, and often anecdotal.” Their bottom line: insufficient evidence should lead the state to exercise extreme caution and avoid taking unnecessary risks.

Economic considerations overriding grave moral concerns. As assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) are increasingly commercialized and relied upon for surrogacy contracts, there is increased likelihood that economic incentives will override the moral considerations of these practices. Commercial surrogacy contracts will result in an increased demand for in vitro fertilization (IVF), and a resulting increase in the loss of early human life. The minority report of the Task Force calculates that three to six human embryos created for possible use in IVF are aborted, discarded or stored indefinitely for every one human embryo successfully brought to birth. We find this calculation to be unacceptable.

Conclusion

In the 2017 majority report of the NYS Task Force on Life and the Law, NYS Health Commissioner Howard Zucker calls surrogacy a “difficult” and “controversial” issue, and the report concedes that “there remain concerns about the well-being of children born through surrogacy, the surrogate and her family, and intended parents and their family” among most Task Force members. We respectfully suggest that with so many concerns outstanding, this is not the time to be experimenting with the lives of women and children.

As outlined in the minority report of the Task Force, the legalization of gestational surrogacy contracts will foster grave violations of human rights and human dignity. Commercial surrogacy is a multi-billion dollar business which exploits women, has little regard for morality or ethics, and violates the basic principles of social justice. We do not believe it to be in the best interests of children, women, families or society, and we strongly urge the New York State Legislature to maintain New York State’s current prohibition.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/05/testimony-regarding-gestational-surrogacy/

Re: S.3791-A Krueger / A.566-A Jaffee: In relation to reproductive health care decisions

Published on May 18th, 2018

Memorandum of Opposition

The above-referenced legislation aims to prevent employers – whether private, non-profit, for-profit or religious – from exercising their religious freedom in the businesses they operate. For the reasons outlined below, the New York State Catholic Conference opposes this bill.

The fundamental purpose of this legislation is to remove any possibility of an employer making employment-related decisions based upon their religious beliefs. In the area of “reproductive health decisions,” the bill could therefore have the effect of repealing current protections in New York law (e.g., Executive Law Section 296[11]) that permit religious employers to take employment-related actions based on the religious principles upon which they are established or maintained.

We believe this legislation represents an unconstitutional infringement on religious freedom. The legislation blatantly and unfairly targets only religious employers and private business owners with religious beliefs. The United States and New York State Constitutions protect the religious freedom of religious and other private employers, enabling them to believe as they choose and determine employee benefits based on those beliefs.

In addition, this legislation is unnecessary. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (enacted 1978) already forbids discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled that employers can’t exclude prescription contraceptives from their preventive health care coverage, nor can they discharge a female employee from her job because she uses contraceptives. (See July 14, 2014 EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues.)

The federal HIPPA law (enacted 1996) already provides sufficient shielding for patient privacy by prohibiting employers from accessing the personal information of employees. The state’s Women’s Health and Wellness Act (enacted 2002) requires health benefit plans to provide coverage for contraception and a wide range of preventive health care.

We strongly urge you to protect religious freedom by rejecting this harmful and unnecessary legislation.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/05/re-s-3791-a-krueger-a-566-a-jaffee-in-relation-to-reproductive-health-care-decisions/

Testimony on Physician-Assisted Suicide Legislation

Published on May 3rd, 2018

Testimony of the New York State Catholic Conference regarding the “Medical Aid in Dying Act” (A.2383-A / S.3151-A). Submitted by Edward T. Mechmann, Esq., Assembly Hearing Room, 19th Floor, 250 Broadway, New York, N.Y.

May 3, 2018

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Assembly, good afternoon. My name is Edward Mechmann, I am the Director of Public Policy of the Archdiocese of New York. I am grateful for the opportunity to testify on behalf of the Archdiocese and the New York State Catholic Conference, which is the public policy arm of the eight Catholic dioceses in New York State. I was the author of an amicus brief on behalf of the Catholic Conference in the Myers v. Schneiderman litigation.

I am here to speak in opposition to the so-called “Medical Aid in Dying Act”. I will focus my testimony on the legal flaws in this assisted suicide legislation. Taken together, these critical and inherent legal flaws pose real dangers to the public and to vulnerable patients. In our view, there is no way to fix this legislation, and we will oppose any bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide.

1. Assisted Suicide is Fundamentally Different from Accepted Medical Practices

One of the central arguments offered by supporters of assisted suicide is that it is essentially indistinguishable from accepted medical practices such as palliative sedation and the withdrawal of excessively burdensome treatments. But this fails to recognize crucial ethical, medical and legal distinctions in the intention of the physician and the causality of death.

In the case of palliative sedation, the intention of the doctor is to treat symptoms, not to cause death. In fact, the American Medical Association’s Code of Ethics states that while sedation to unconsciousness may be ethical under certain circumstances, it “must never be used to intentionally cause a patient’s death.” In contrast, in the case of assisted suicide the intention of the doctor is precisely to intentionally cause the patient’s death. There is also a critical difference in causation. In the case of palliative sedation, death will happen due to the underlying illness, while with assisted suicide, the patient’s death is directly and unequivocally caused by the lethal drugs the doctor prescribes.

The same key distinctions apply between declining life-sustaining treatment and assisted suicide. When a patient declines treatment, the doctor does not intend to cause the patient’s death. Instead, he is respecting the patient’s wishes, which he is required under the law to do, or else he would be prosecuted for battery. The cause of death is the underlying condition –the doctor is not the direct cause of death. In contrast, when the doctor prescribes lethal drugs, the intention is to cause the patient’s death and the cause of death are the drugs. When the patient declines treatment, the doctor stands aside and allows nature to take its course. In assisted suicide, the doctor preempts nature and is complicit in the patient’s suicide.

These distinctions can be seen when we focus on the drugs themselves. In palliative sedation, the medication causes a relief of symptoms like pain, anxiety, etc., but does not cause death. In declining treatment, there is no medicine involved, and again, death comes from other causes. But in the case of assisted suicide, the drugs are the only thing that causes the patient’s death. That is its only purpose, that is its only effect. It is there only to kill.

Making distinctions between intention and causality is very common in the law. We treat actions very differently based on the intent of the actor, and the result they cause. The Court of Appeals in the Myers case clearly understood this, and it was a major factor in their decision to reject assisted suicide.

2. Legalization will hurt efforts to prevent suicides.

This legislation is being proposed as if it will only affect individual patients and it has nothing to do with suicide in general. Nothing could be further from the truth. This bill contradicts and undermines current legal and policy efforts to safeguard vulnerable people from suicide.

Suicide is a serious public health concern. It is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States; it kills as two-and a half times more people than homicide, more than motor vehicle accidents, and seven times more than HIV; the number of deaths from suicide has increased over 26% in the last decade. Experts suspect that the numbers are actually even higher but are hidden behind drug overdoses.

In response, clear messages to discourage suicide are ubiquitous in New York, such as billboards, signs on bridges, and posters on mass transit saying “life is worth living.” Great efforts are made in our schools and correctional system to prevent suicides. Legalization of assisted suicide would contradict and undermine those efforts by sending a dangerous message – namely, suicide is okay for some people.

This bill would also strip suicidal patients of existing legal protections. Under current law, persons at risk of harming themselves can be involuntarily committed for evaluation and treatment, pursuant to Article 9 of the Mental Hygiene Law. This bill would prevent that – it states that “A patient who requests medication under this article shall not, because of that request, be considered to be a person who is suicidal…” § 2899-n(1)(a). It thus creates an invidious double standard — terminally ill and disabled patients are denied safeguards that are guaranteed to all others. That sends a clear message to them that their lives are not worth protecting.

States that have legalized assisted suicide have also seen an increase in suicides in general. In Oregon, for example, the overall suicide rate is 42% higher than the national average. The phenomena of “suicide contagion” and “suicide clusters”, in which one suicide leads to others within a social group, is well recognized as a substantial danger. This makes logical sense. Legalization of assisted suicide would send a message to people with depression, a decrease in daily functioning or a disability that their life is not worth caring for and that suicide is an acceptable option. If it becomes normalized as a medical practice, more people will get the same deadly message.

3. Physician Assisted Suicide Cannot Be Limited

Passage of this bill will inevitably lead to an expansion of assisted suicide to euthanasia.

This bill is supposed to be limited to those who are terminally ill at the very end of life. But the bill defines a “terminal illness or condition” as “an incurable and irreversible illness or condition that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment, produce death within six months”. § 2899-d(17). This definition would include many persons with disabilities or chronic debilitating illnesses, who would soon die if they simply declined to continue their regular treatments. The language of the bill itself shows the intent to expand assisted suicide beyond the terminally ill.

This expansion has already happened elsewhere, as Judge Fahey explained in his concurring opinion in the Myers case. In Belgium and Holland, euthanasia has been extended to those without terminal illnesses, to people who have dementia or mental health problems. It is also offered to those who simply feel old, isolated, or have lost interest in life. There is also an increasing number of cases of involuntary euthanasia — killing people who did not even ask for death, including children. Canada is already considering expanding assisted suicide beyond terminal illnesses and to minors, and advocates in other states have been calling for the same.

Prominent advocates for assisted suicide have openly stated that their ultimate goal is to legalize it for people without a terminal illness. They have expressed support for removing any legal restrictions such as age restrictions, and have argued that doctors should be allowed to administer the fatal medicine – in other words, they want to legalize euthanasia.

We should listen to the advocates. This bill will not be the final frontier for assisted suicide.

4. There are inadequate safeguards to protect vulnerable patients.

Advocates for legalization frequently point to alleged safeguards that are in the bill. But these are grossly inadequate and endanger vulnerable persons.

The only safeguards in the bill deal with the time before the patient receives the prescription for deadly drugs. We believe those safeguards themselves are inadequate. For example, there is no mandatory referral of the patient to determine if they are suffering from a treatable mental illness that led to the suicide request (e.g., clinical depression). Instead, a referral is only optional and it is limited to determining whether the patient has decision-making capacity. § 2988-f(c). In Oregon, fewer than 5% of patients are ever referred for this limited evaluation. This is a glaring flaw and shows a shocking indifference to persons suffering with mental illnesses.

The danger is much worse after the patient receives the pills. There are absolutely no safeguards to protect vulnerable patients:

  • There is no follow-up evaluation to determine if the patient’s condition has changed or if other treatments have become available.
  • There is no further evaluation to determine if the patient is suffering from a mental illness (e.g., clinical depression).
  • No physician or other health professional is required to be present when the patient takes the lethal pills.
  • There is no evaluation of the patient’s decision-making capacity at the time they take the lethal drugs.
  • There is no way to know if the patient is being coerced into taking the lethal medication.
  • There is no way to know if the patient is even self-administering the pills.
  • There is no way to ensure that only the patient is taking the drugs.

This bill abandons patients, and puts them at risk of coercion, abuse, and even  outright murder. This danger is exacerbated by the lack of transparency and oversight in the bill.

5. There will be no accountability and oversight to prevent abuses.

The bill actually requires that the physician state untruthfully on the death certificate that “the cause of death was the underlying terminal illness or condition of the patient.” § 2899-p(2). That is simply not true – it was a suicide caused by lethal drugs. Lying on the death certificate will cripple efforts to oversee the implementation of the law, since there will be no way to do an independent evaluation of cases.

There is also no mechanism for a systematic evaluation and oversight by the Health Department. The Department is also given no authority to investigate suspicious cases or to enforce the bill. The result is that assisted suicide will take place in the shadows and we will never be able to tell if there are abuses.

There are a number of other serious flaws in this legislation. Taken together, it is clear that this legislation poses real dangers to the public and to vulnerable patients. We strongly urge the Assembly Health Committee and the Legislature as a whole to reject it.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/05/testimony-on-physician-assisted-suicide-legislation/

A.8421, Rosenthal (Same as A.5885-A, Rosenthal / S.6575, Hoylman / S.6722, Rules): In relation to civil and criminal changes to the statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse

Published on April 30th, 2018

Memorandum of Opposition

The Catholic Church has zero tolerance for sexual abuse and supports proposals in the New York State Legislature to extend the time allowed under the law to file criminal charges or civil lawsuits against those who abuse children.

Sexual abuse is a societal scourge. It knows no boundaries. Protecting children from sexual abuse and safeguarding the legal rights of victims requires a comprehensive approach. While the Catholic Conference strongly supports efforts to prospectively increase the criminal and civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, the above-referenced legislation is seriously flawed in that it contains a statute of limitations “window” to open up previously time-barred civil claims going back indefinitely against not only abusers themselves, but against their employers as well. Therefore, the Catholic Conference must strongly oppose this legislation.

This extraordinary provision would force institutions to defend alleged conduct decades ago about which they have no knowledge, and in which they had no role, potentially involving employees long retired, dead or infirm, based on information long lost, if it ever existed. To be clear, the sponsors’ intent is to allow claims from even the 1940s or 1950s to be resurrected.

Statutes of limitation are an essential protection of American law because they ensure that claims can be fairly adjudicated in a timely manner based on credible evidence. The New York State Bar Association has said:

Over time, evidence is lost or destroyed and witnesses die or become unavailable or, when they are available, their memories are less reliable. These circumstances make proof and defense of such actions extremely difficult, if not impossible, for all parties involved. (New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Civil Practice Law and Rules Legislative Report #8, Feb. 25, 2003)

Moreover, this bill is seriously flawed in that it only raises the criminal statute of limitations by five years, until the victim-survivor’s 28th birthday. At the same time, it raises the civil statute of limitations until the victim-survivor’s 50th birthday, in addition to a retroactive window that allows old lawsuits to be brought no matter how long ago the incident occurred. Clearly the bill’s focus on lawsuits against organizations, rather than punishing predators and removing them from our communities, does not in any way achieve a goal of protecting children today or in the future.

While some legislative and policy disagreements about the ideal approach continue, New York State continues to make laudable progress in protecting children. The criminal statute of limitations on charges of rape or felony sexual abuse of a child has been eliminated. These crimes are now treated with the same gravity as murder.

Still more can and should be done. Currently under consideration is an omnibus child protection bill sponsored by Assembly Member Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island) that would extend the civil statute of limitations for sexual abuse lawsuits another five years to the victim’s 28thbirthday, and would apply equally to public and private institutions. The Cusick bill also eliminates the criminal statute entirely, adds clergy to the list of mandated reporters, and requires criminal background checks for all employees and volunteers who work with children in either public or not-for-profit settings. The Catholic Conference strong supports the Cusick bill as the best legislative remedy available to protect children from abuse today and to give victims more time to seek justice, both criminally and civilly.

To reiterate, while we are in agreement with aspects of A.5885-A, the ill-advised “window” to reopen decades-old claims is, in the end, contrary to justice, because simply too much time has gone by in many cases to mount an effective defense, particularly for institutional defendants. We therefore urge the bill be defeated, and for the legislature to instead pass the NYS Child Protection Act of 2018 (A.7302-A / S.5660-A).

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/04/cva/

A.5885-A, Rosenthal (Same as A.8421, Rosenthal / S.6575, Hoylman / S.6722, Rules): In relation to civil and criminal changes to the statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse

Published on April 30th, 2018

Memorandum of Opposition

The Catholic Church has zero tolerance for sexual abuse and supports proposals in the New York State Legislature to extend the time allowed under the law to file criminal charges or civil lawsuits against those who abuse children.

Sexual abuse is a societal scourge. It knows no boundaries. Protecting children from sexual abuse and safeguarding the legal rights of victims requires a comprehensive approach. While the Catholic Conference strongly supports efforts to prospectively increase the criminal and civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse, the above-referenced legislation is seriously flawed in that it contains a statute of limitations “window” to open up previously time-barred civil claims going back indefinitely against not only abusers themselves, but against their employers as well. Therefore, the Catholic Conference must strongly oppose this legislation.

This extraordinary provision would force institutions to defend alleged conduct decades ago about which they have no knowledge, and in which they had no role, potentially involving employees long retired, dead or infirm, based on information long lost, if it ever existed. To be clear, the sponsors’ intent is to allow claims from even the 1940s or 1950s to be resurrected.

Statutes of limitation are an essential protection of American law because they ensure that claims can be fairly adjudicated in a timely manner based on credible evidence. The New York State Bar Association has said:

Over time, evidence is lost or destroyed and witnesses die or become unavailable or, when they are available, their memories are less reliable. These circumstances make proof and defense of such actions extremely difficult, if not impossible, for all parties involved. (New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Civil Practice Law and Rules Legislative Report #8, Feb. 25, 2003)

Moreover, this bill is seriously flawed in that it only raises the criminal statute of limitations by five years, until the victim-survivor’s 28th birthday. At the same time, it raises the civil statute of limitations until the victim-survivor’s 50th birthday, in addition to a retroactive window that allows old lawsuits to be brought no matter how long ago the incident occurred. Clearly the bill’s focus on lawsuits against organizations, rather than punishing predators and removing them from our communities, does not in any way achieve a goal of protecting children today or in the future.

While some legislative and policy disagreements about the ideal approach continue, New York State continues to make laudable progress in protecting children. The criminal statute of limitations on charges of rape or felony sexual abuse of a child has been eliminated. These crimes are now treated with the same gravity as murder.

Still more can and should be done. Currently under consideration is an omnibus child protection bill sponsored by Assembly Member Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island) that would extend the civil statute of limitations for sexual abuse lawsuits another five years to the victim’s 28thbirthday, and would apply equally to public and private institutions. The Cusick bill also eliminates the criminal statute entirely, adds clergy to the list of mandated reporters, and requires criminal background checks for all employees and volunteers who work with children in either public or not-for-profit settings. The Catholic Conference strong supports the Cusick bill as the best legislative remedy available to protect children from abuse today and to give victims more time to seek justice, both criminally and civilly.

To reiterate, while we are in agreement with aspects of A.5885-A, the ill-advised “window” to reopen decades-old claims is, in the end, contrary to justice, because simply too much time has gone by in many cases to mount an effective defense, particularly for institutional defendants. We therefore urge the bill be defeated, and for the legislature to instead pass the NYS Child Protection Act of 2018 (A.7302-A / S.5660-A).

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/04/cva/

S.7863, Tedisco / A.10013, Crespo: In relation to notification to mothers of their right to bury their child

Published on April 27th, 2018

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced legislation would require hospitals to notify mothers who suffer a natural miscarriage at any point in their pregnancy that they have the right to bury their child. The New York State Catholic Conference supports this bill.

Under current Public Health Law, a burial permit is required for the burial or other disposition of human remains resulting from a fetal death of 20 weeks gestation or above. The law is silent on providing such a permit in cases of fetal death which occur under 20 weeks gestation.

While some mothers who naturally miscarry under 20 weeks are provided the option of obtaining a permit and planning a burial and service for their child, other mothers are being denied this right because the silence of the current law is being wrongly interpreted to mean that a permit under 20 weeks is prohibited.

Denying mothers who miscarry a much-loved infant the right to properly bury or cremate their child is heartless, inhumane, harmful to the healing process, and simply wrong. Families who lose a child to miscarriage at any stage of pregnancy have suffered a devastating loss, and providing a respectful burial and a place to grieve often helps to bring comfort and closure. Many mothers – and fathers – need and desire a way to say good-bye to their baby.

Miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss; the National Institutes of Health estimates that 15 to 20 percent of known pregnancies in the United States result in miscarriage. This legislation would ensure that every mother who miscarries a child in the hospital is afforded the opportunity to have her child’s remains appropriately buried or cremated. The bill does not mandate such disposition, but gives mothers the choice. A number of other states have already implemented similar laws, including Massachusetts, Illinois and Michigan.

We strongly urge you to co-sponsor and support this legislation.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/04/miscarriagebill/

Fatal Flaws in Assisted Suicide Legislation

Published on April 20th, 2018

Photo by Jonathan Perez on UnsplashPrintable PDF Here

Proponents of the so-called “Medical Aid-in-Dying Act” (A.2383-A/S.3151-A) argue that it contains safeguards which protect vulnerable patients. Yet a close examination of the bill’s language reveals inadequate protections for patients most at risk of abuse, and lower medical standards than elsewhere in the Public Health Law. The bill lacks transparency and accountability, and contains extremely weak conscience protections for both health care professionals and health care institutions. In short, it is unsafe for all involved.

  1. The definition of “terminal illness or condition” increases the risk of errors in diagnosis.
  • The bill defines a “terminal illness or condition” as “an incurable and irreversible illness or condition that has been medically confirmed and will, within reasonable medical judgment, produce death within six months” § 2899-d(17).
  • Virtually anything could qualify under this definition, including a chronic illness like diabetes or ALS that would cause death if the person declined ordinary treatment. Patients who cannot afford expensive treatments would be particularly at risk due to this definition.
  • This is a significantly lower standard for diagnosis than the “reasonable degree of medical certainty” that is used in comparable provisions of the law. See, e.g., Public Health Law § 2994-a(5) (the Family Health Care Decisions Act), Public Health Law § 2963(2) (determining capacity to make decisions regarding cardiopulmonary resuscitation), and Surrogate Court Procedure Act § 1726(4)(a) (relating to health care decisions for persons with mental retardation).
  • Given the inherent uncertainty of making a prognosis of the amount of time a person may live, this lower standard puts patients at risk.
  1. The standard for determining capacity is too weak.
  • The bill contains a very loose definition of “capacity” or “capacity to make an informed decision” – “the ability to understand and appreciate the nature and consequences of health care decisions, including the benefits and risks of and alternatives to any proposed health care, and to reach an informed decision.” § 2899-d(3)
  • No standard is set for making this determination. All it requires is that the physician “make a determination of whether a patient… has capacity” § 2899-f(1)(a). This is a much lower standard than analogous New York laws, such as the Family Health Care Decisions Act, where a physician must make determinations “to a reasonable degree of medical certainty.” (Public Health Law § 2994-A(5))
  • The “capacity” standard is clearly inadequate, which is a crucial flaw since this is the threshold determination of whether a patient can even make a request for suicide assistance.
  1. No psychological screening, counseling, diagnosis or treatment is required.
  • There is no mandatory referral of the patient to a psychiatrist to determine if they are suffering from a treatable mental illness that led to the suicide request (e.g., clinical depression).
  • Instead, a referral is only optional and it is limited to determining if the patient has decision-making capacity § 2988-f(c).
  • Even if a referral is made, there is no requirement that it be done by a physician or psychiatrist — the bill only requires an evaluation by a “mental health professional”, which includes nurse practitioner or physician assistant or psychologist. §§ 2899-i(1) and 2899-d(11).
  • There is no requirement that the patient’s family be notified, which isolates the patient from the very people who can provide them with the support they need.
  • The bill thus essentially abandons vulnerable patients who are suffering from treatable psychological conditions. 
  1. There are inadequate protections for patients when the request is made. 
  • The bill has weak witness requirements. This is problematic because patients, particularly isolated elderly patients in long-term care facilities, are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
  • The bill requires two witnesses to a patient’s written request for assisted suicide. But one of the witnesses can a person entitled to a portion of the patient’s estate, or a person associate associated with the health care facility where the patient is receiving treatment.
  • There is no requirement that the witnesses even know the patient prior to the suicide request. § 2899-e(3). Instead, the witnesses are permitted merely to certify that the patient “provided proof of identity”. 2899-k.
  • There is no waiting period between the time of the request and the time when the suicide medicine can be dispensed.
  • There is no requirement that the patient be a New York resident. This means that New York could turn into a suicide destination, and death on request will be available to vulnerable people with no connection to our state or to the treating physician.
  • The bill does not specifically exclude surrogate decisions by a guardian, health care proxy or a surrogate appointed by law. This is dangerous since these other laws grant wide authority to make surrogate health decisions. For example, the Family Health Care Decisions Act states that “the surrogate shall have the authority to make any and all health care decisions on the adult patient’s behalf that the patient could make.” Public Health Law § 2994-D(3)(i). Without a specific exclusion, a person who is incapacitated could have the assisted suicide decision made for them by someone else.
  1. There are no protections for the patient after the drugs are dispensed.
  • Once the patient receives the pills, there are no protections. There is no oversight as to when, where, with whom, etc. the patient actually takes the lethal dosage of medication.
  • There is no requirement that the patient’s decision-making capacity be evaluated at the time that they self-administer the lethal drugs.
  • There is no way to ensure that the patient isn’t being coerced into taking the lethal medication.
  • There is no requirement of any follow-up evaluation by the physician, to determine if the patient’s condition has changed or if other treatments have become available.
  • There is no requirement of any further evaluation by a mental health professional, to determine if the patient is suffering from a mental illness (e.g., clinical depression).
  • No physician or other health professional is required to be present at the time the patient takes the lethal pills. The patient may thus suffer unnecessarily.
  • There is no way to ensure that only the patient is taking the medicine. The drugs can be diverted to others.
  • There is a provision that “a person in control of the unused medications shall personally deliver the unused medication for disposal to the nearest  qualified  .. ” § 2899-o. But there is no enforcement mechanism or accountability.
  • The lack of patient protection at the time the drugs are administered is even more dangerous, given the lack of transparency and oversight in the bill (see Points 7 and 8, below).
  1. Patients are stripped of existing legal protections.
  • The bill states that “A patient who requests medication under this article shall not, because of that request, be considered to be a person who is suicidal, and self-administering medication under this article shall not be deemed to be suicide, for any purpose.” § 2899-n(1)(a). This would strip patients of important legal protections.
  • Under current law, persons who are at risk of harming themselves are given extensive protection under Mental Hygiene Law Article 9. That statute permits the involuntary commitment of any person who may be in danger of harming herself, so that they can be evaluated and treated by mental health practitioners. There are also extensive due process provisions in that law to ensure that the person’s rights are being protected.
  • Other vulnerable patients may be protected by the appointment of a guardian or conservator pursuant to Mental Hygiene Law Article 81. There are also substantial due process requirements that are designed to ensure the safety of the patient.
  • This excludes the possibility of invoking significant legal protections from vulnerable patients, and creates an invidious double standard — terminally ill patients are denied rights and due processes that are available to all others.
  1. Intentional false statements on death certificates hide the truth.
  • The bill’s definition of “medical aid in dying” acknowledges that the medicine is the cause of death, not the underlying illness (“the medical practice of a physician prescribing medication to a qualified individual that the individual may choose to self-administer to bring about death“). This fits any reasonable definition of “suicide”.
  • But instead of listing the cause of death as suicide, the bill requires that the physician lie on the death certificate. The bill specifically states that “the death certificate shall indicate that the cause of death was the underlying terminal illness or condition of the patient.” § 2899-p(2).
  • Under any other circumstance, a deliberate false statement on a death certificate would be a crime. Penal Law 175.30, Public Health Law § 4102(1)(a).
  • The failure to identify suicide as the actual cause of death will hamper efforts to oversee the implementation of the law, since information on death certificates will not be reliable and there will be no way to determine if physician-assisted suicides have actually occurred.
  • The bill also prohibits insurance companies from denying benefits to any person who commits suicide. Together with the false statement that is required on the death certificate, this creates clear incentive for insurance fraud, and thus for undue influence or coercion.
  1. There will be no effective accountability and oversight to prevent abuses.
  • The bill immunizes the physician and other health professionals from any criminal, civil or professional liability, so long as they acted with “reasonable good faith”. § 2899-l(1).
  • There is also a blanket exclusion of any criminal prosecution for anything done under the bill – “Action taken in accordance with this article shall not be construed for any purpose to constitute suicide, assisted suicide, attempted suicide, promoting a suicide attempt, mercy killing, or homicide under the law, including as an accomplice or  accessory or otherwise.” § 2899-n(1)(b)
  • This “good faith” defense and blanket exclusion clause completely negate the purported penalty provisions elsewhere in the bill (see§ 2899-l(2) and 2899-r(2)) and prevents any meaningful oversight by law enforcement officials.
  • There is no mechanism for a systematic evaluation and oversight by public health authorities.
  • There is no requirement that a report be made to the Health Department whenever action is taken under the statute. See 2899-j (requiring only entries in the patient’s health record, but not requiring any report to public authorities).
  • The bill requires an annual review by the Department of Health of a sample of patient records, but there is no mechanism for identifying those records or ensuring that they are a representative sample. § 2899-q(1).
  • Any records collected by the Department are completely shielded from being produced pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law. § 2899-q(1). As a result, if this bill were enacted, there is no possibility for independent evaluation of how the law is being implemented.
  • Although the bill does require the Department to issue an annual report, this will have no real value because of the incompleteness of the records and the lack of independent review. § 2899-q(2).
  • This lack of oversight capability will make it impossible to track the incidence of assisted suicide, or to ascertain whether the law is being abused.
  1. There is inadequate conscience protection for individuals. 
  • The bill states that “A physician, nurse, pharmacist, other health care provider or other person shall not be under any duty, by law or contract, to participate in the provision of medication to a patient under this article”. 2899-m(1)(a)
  • The term “provision of medication” is not broad enough to encompass all religious or moral objections to participating in assisted suicide. For example, many people would have a religious or moral objection to counseling, referring, etc. The definition also does not adequately protect those who provide indirect assistance, such as the pharmacist dispensing the medicine.
  • This is a particular danger, because the Palliative Care Information Act requires that when presented with a terminally ill patient, health care practitioners “shall offer to provide the patient with information and counseling regarding palliative care and end-of-life options appropriate to the patient”. Public Health Law § 2997-c(2)(a).
  • If the practitioner has an objection, the Palliative Care Information Act requires that they refer the patient to another person who will provide that information. Public Health Law 2997-c(3). This kind of referral is still morally impermissible cooperation in a suicide.
  1. There is insufficient conscience protection for institutions.
  • The bill appears to provide some conscience protection for “health facilities”.
  • But the bill defines “health facilities” only to include general hospitals, nursing homes and residential health care facilities. § 2899-d(5).
  • This would not include hospice facilities, doctor’s offices, ambulatory clinics, specialty hospitals, home health agencies, residential care facilities for the mentally disabled, or other specialized institutions.
  • This would put a significant number of institutions, including religious institutions and the people who work in them, at risk of having no effective conscience protections.
  • In addition, a private health care facility is permitted to prohibit only “the prescribing, dispensing, ordering or self-administering of medication under this article while the patient is being treated in or while the patient is residing in the health care facility”. § 2899-m(2)(a) (emphasis added).
  • As a result, a facility cannot discipline any person on their staff who counsels or participates in an assisted suicide off premises.
  • The health care facility can only decline to participate if it informs patients and transfers patients who request suicide to another facility that is “willing to permit the prescribing, dispensing, ordering and self-administering of medication”. 2899-m(2)(b).
  • This kind of referral requires institutions to cooperate in suicide, since it involves knowingly providing a person with the means and opportunity to obtain the morally objectionable act.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/04/fatal-flaws/

A.10006, Paulin / S.4278, Ranzenhofer: In relation to chemical digestion of human remains

Published on March 19th, 2018

Memorandum Requesting Amendment

The above-referenced bill seeks to amend the definition of “cremation” under the Not-For-Profit Corporation Law to include “any other technical process.”

The New York State Catholic Conference opposes the prospect that this bill under the amended definition would allow for a process known as alkaline hydrolysis.

The Catholic Conference understands that crematories across the state are constantly evolving to meet the needs of New York State residents and cemeteries are increasingly dealing with issues regarding burial space. We agree that allowing the cemetery board to authorize new cremation processes would be both more expedient and allow for the industry to help determine the value of regulatory proposals through the public comment rule-making process.

The Catholic Conference, however, is concerned that processes such as alkaline hydrolysis and potentially other processes involving an abundant use of chemicals to digest human remains do not sufficiently respect the dignity of the human body. The Church’s reverence for the sacredness of the human body and its dignity arises out of concern for both the body’s natural and supernatural properties. It is therefore essential that the body of a deceased person be treated with respect and reverence.

Therefore, if this bill does move forward, it is suggested that safeguards be added to prohibit processes such as alkaline hydrolysis from being considered during the rule making process. Such a prohibition would still allow crematories across the state to gain access to new innovations in the field while also ensuring the dignity of the deceased’s body is preserved.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/03/a-3740-dinowitz-s-4278-ranzenhofer-in-relation-to-chemical-digestion-of-human-remains/

S.5988-A, Lanza / A.6823-B, Paulin: In relation to the sex trafficking of children

Published on March 15th, 2018

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced legislation would eliminate the need to prove force, fraud, or coercion beyond a reasonable doubt in cases of children who are prostituted for sex. This legislation builds on New York’s current anti-trafficking laws and gives prosecutors the tools they need to crack down on this horrendous crime, which is a grave assault on human dignity.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports this bill.

Recent news stories from various parts of New York State reveal that very young children continue to be lured and trapped by pimps, who sell their bodies for sex. Twelve-year-old children are clearly victims of the trafficking industry, and the law should treat them as victims. They should not be compelled, at great trauma, to testify against their traffickers to prove force, fraud or coercion.

This bill would align New York State law with federal law to ensure that any child under the age of 18 who engages in commercial sex is considered a victim of sex trafficking, and any person who promotes and benefits from exploiting such child is considered a sex trafficker.

The New York State Catholic Conference supported the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act which was signed into law in 2015, and we support this legislation to further remove barriers to prosecuting the predatory traffickers who sexually exploit children. We urge your favorable vote on this legislation.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/03/s-5988-a-lanza-a-6823-b-paulin-in-relation-to-the-sex-trafficking-of-children/

S.6736, Valesky / A.6099-A, Lupardo: In relation to authorizing banks to protect vulnerable adults from financial exploitation

Published on March 9th, 2018

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced legislation would authorize banking organizations to refuse to disburse moneys in circumstances where there is reason to believe that a vulnerable adult may be being financially exploited.

This legislation would allow, but not require, a banking institution to act to protect the financial assets of a vulnerable adult from theft or conversion by relatives or other caregivers. The elderly, those aged 65 and older, are the fastest growing segment in this country. They are vulnerable to varying types of abuse, including physical, psychological and financial. The proposed amendment to the Social Services Law would add a provision to the Adult Protective Services section to cover financial abuse. If a bank reasonably believes that financial abuse of a vulnerable person is occurring, they may refuse to honor the transaction and provide law enforcement or social service officials with documents relevant to the suspected financial exploitation.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports the protection of vulnerable adults from financial exploitation, and urges enactment of this legislation. Encouraging the reporting of suspected financial abuse of vulnerable adults is an important public policy goal. It is important that society take actions to protect those who are vulnerable to financial exploitation as a result of physical or developmental disability or age related dementia.

The State Office for the Aging, utilizing data from the U.S. Census, has projected that in 2025 the age 60 plus population in New York will reach 4.4 million. Society must be prepared to meet increased needs of “the baby boomers.” The Catholic Conference advocates for public policies that promote economic and social independence among aging New Yorkers. As elderly individuals amass greater assets they may become attractive targets for financial abuse. Social Security payments have reduced the percent of elderly persons living in poverty. The poverty rate for persons 65 or older has dropped to an historic low. Catholic social teaching calls on policy makers to maintain our commitment to vulnerable individuals and calls upon people of good will to support a social contract that reflects our enduring commitment to those in our community and nation, as members of one human family.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/03/s-1093-valesky-a-6099-lupardo-in-relation-to-authorizing-banks-to-protect-vulnerable-adults-from-financial-exploitation/

A.9957, Cahill: In relation to expanding contraceptive insurance coverage

Published on March 5th, 2018

Memorandum of Opposition

The above-referenced legislation, requested by the Attorney General, would expand current law to require increased insurance coverage for contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and voluntary sterilization. The New York State Catholic Conference opposes this measure.

In 2002, New York State lawmakers passed the “Women’s Health and Wellness Act” which requires insurance plans with prescription coverage to cover FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and devices, and provides insufficient protections for religious employers.

The legislation now before you would go further by mandating cost-free contraceptives, requiring that a 12-month supply of contraceptives be covered at one time, and including emergency contraception (EC), the so-called “morning-after pill.” We believe that enabling such large amounts of prescription medication, particularly in such high doses as emergency contraception, to get into the hands of young people is irresponsible and dangerous public policy.

This bill would further expand access to emergency contraception by allowing midwives to prescribe EC, allowing pharmacists and nurses to dispense EC without a patient-specific prescription, requiring insurance coverage for any form of EC without cost-sharing of any kind, and requiring state DOH education and outreach about EC to school educators. Such policy would provide girls as young as 11 or 12 years old easy access to these powerful drugs without parental knowledge or physician oversight. As a matter of state law, many products sold by pharmacies, e.g. tobacco and non-prescription allergy medicine, are restricted to consumers 18 years of age and older.

Medical experts and the FDA agree that emergency contraception can work in various ways. It can act to inhibit or delay ovulation, and thus prevent conception. But it can also act to prevent an already-fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall, destroying a developing human embryo. This is early abortion, and it is morally abhorrent to many New Yorkers.

We further oppose this bill because it fails to provide religious liberty protections for employers who may have objections to financing insurance coverage of drugs they find morally objectionable. The legislation keeps in place the inadequate 4-part legal definition of “religious employer” which fails to protect charitable organizations, hospitals and schools sponsored by religious organizations, as well as private organizations. These entities would be forced by this bill to pay for insurance coverage they find objectionable.

Moreover, the language of this legislation creates problems even for those religious employers who do qualify for protection under the 4-part religious exemption. The bill prohibits insurance plans from imposing “restrictions or delays” with regard to “timely access” to contraception, a standard that may not be possible for religious employers which are in the process of obtaining a religious exemption and notifying enrollees.

For these reasons, the New York State Catholic Conference opposes this legislation and urges a negative vote.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/03/a-9957-cahill-in-relation-to-expanding-contraceptive-insurance-coverage/

A7302-A, Cusick / S.5660-A, Lanza: In relation to the New York State Child Protection Act of 2018

Published on February 26th, 2018

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced bill is an omnibus child protection initiative designed to protect children from sexual abuse, and to allow existing and future survivors of such abuse a longer opportunity to seek justice in both criminal and civil courts. The New York State Catholic Conference strongly supports this bill.

By eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for the prosecution of certain sex offenses, the bill enables prosecutors to hold abusers accountable for crimes committed now and in the future, bringing unprecedented new protections to victims of child sexual crimes. In addition, this bill extends the time for civil claims to be brought by survivors of child sexual abuse until they are 28 years old, thereby ensuring victims have sufficient time to hold abusers civilly accountable for their actions. Importantly, notice of claim requirements are amended under this bill to ensure that victims of child sexual abuse are able to bring civil claims against all abusers, including those employed by municipal entities. Unlike some other bills before the legislature, all victims are treated equally under this bill.

Furthermore, this bill goes further than other legislation by addressing the societal problem of child sexual abuse in a comprehensive way. It expands mandated reporter requirements by adding clergy to the list of those who must report suspected cases of sexual abuse of a child, and requires all mandated reporters to not only report suspected familial abuse, but also suspected abuse at the hands of other mandated reporters. It also requires that all organizations, public or private, conduct criminal history searches on any employee or volunteer with the organization who has unsupervised contact with children. Costs to not-for-profit organizations associated with such criminal history checks would be reimbursed by the state under this legislation.

Sexual abuse is a crime and an assault on the dignity of the human person, made even worse when the victim is a child. Child sexual abuse is a pervasive social problem and the Catholic Conference fully supports legislative efforts to strengthen criminal and prospective civil penalties for sexual abuse of children to ensure children are protected from predators now and in the future. This bill helps to ensure such protection, and the Catholic Conference strongly supports it.

Since 2002, the Catholic Church has had a zero tolerance policy for anyone credibly accused of abusing a child, and has taken more steps to prevent the sexual abuse of children than any other religious or private organization. No one who has been credibly accused of harming a child is currently in active ministry, and all Church employees and volunteers must complete sexual abuse awareness training if they are going to be in contact with children. Whenever a credible claim of sexual abuse is brought, it is both investigated by Church authorities and reported to law enforcement. Under U.S. Church law, every diocese is subjected to annual outside audits to ensure full compliance with these policies.

The Catholic Conference strongly urges the passage of this bill because it will help bring justice to survivors of child sexual abuse, will help to prevent abuse going forward and treats all victims fairly and equally, regardless of where the abuse occurred.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/02/child-protection-act/

2018-19 Testimony on Women’s Agenda Article VII Legislation, S.7511 / A.9511

Published on February 12th, 2018

Testimony submitted by the New York State Catholic Conference to the Joint Legislative Hearing on the health care and Medicaid budget regarding the Women’s Agenda Article VII Legislation (S.7511/A.9511) in the 2018-2019 Executive Budget.

February 12, 2018

Senator Young, Assembly Member Weinstein, and distinguished members of the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means Committees:

This legislation seeks to enact a multi-faceted new “women’s agenda” which contains Parts A through M. We comment here on Part B of this legislation which the Executive states will “codify Roe v. Wade into state law to ensure that women can make personal healthcare decisions.” The Executive further states that enactment of Part B “is necessary to implement the FY 2019 Executive Budget.”

We disagree with the Executive’s analysis and strongly oppose Part B of this legislation. We find it to be a dangerous and unnecessary expansion of late-term abortion, and a leap into legalized infanticide. It should not be part of a budget proposal and it should not become law. We strongly urge you to oppose it.

Part B of this legislation is not a simple update of New York’s laws or codification of a court ruling. It would strip all mention of abortion from our state’s statutes, resulting in the following consequences.

It would expand late-term abortion.

The primary objective of Part B of this legislation is to increase the availability of abortion in the third trimester of pregnancy.  Current state law says abortions are legal in New York through 24 weeks of pregnancy, but outlawed after that unless they are necessary to save a woman’s life (Penal Law Section 125.00).  This bill would repeal all Penal Law references to abortion. This would completely decriminalize abortion under our state law, resulting in a policy where abortion would not be illegal for any reason at any time during a pregnancy. To repeat, this bill will allow abortion for any reason, at any time, and by any means during a pregnancy, including into the ninth month right up until the moment of birth. This goes far beyond a “codification” of Roe vs. Wade.

It would empower non-doctors to perform abortions.

The current New York State criminal code (Penal Law Section 125.05[3]) is clear in requiring that only a “duly licensed physician” may perform abortions in New York. By repealing this section of law, this legislation would strip this protection from women, and hand policy-making authority to determine who may perform abortions to the State Education Department and State Department of Health.  It is likely that practitioners with less training and less experience — such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse mid-wives, as well as a broad range of other non-physicians — will be empowered to do both chemical and surgical abortions. Indeed, by removing the Penal Law penalties for non-doctors performing abortions, this legislation essentially invites unqualified abortionists and disbarred doctors to come into New York to establish their “practice.” This is not good for women’s health.

It would eliminate protections for pregnant women against coerced abortion or intentional assaults on their unborn child.

Stripping abortion from New York’s Penal Law would remove accountability for those who would harm unborn children through coerced or unwanted abortion. The crime of “abortion” is the only place in New York law that allows for an additional criminal charge for a violent attack against a pregnant woman which results in the loss of her unborn child. Incidents of domestic violence increase when a woman is pregnant and her male partner does not wish to be a father. Such cases occur with some frequency in New York State.

This legislation would remove this current Penal law protection for pregnant women in cases of involuntary abortion (Penal Law Sections 125.05, 125.40 and 125.45). This does a grave disservice to pregnant women, the very-much-wanted unborn children they may carry, and any possibility of justice for them when crimes are committed against them. While we believe that our law should provide for a separate charge of assault or homicide for the harm inflicted on the infant in such cases, at a minimum the law should remain as it is to allow an additional charge of illegal abortion.

It would legalize infanticide.

Shockingly, this legislation repeals Public Health Law Section 4164, part of which gives full legal protection to any child who might (mistakenly) be born alive as the result of an abortion. It also requires a second doctor to be available during a late-term abortion to help give medical care to any such child. It is difficult to imagine the motivation of the Executive in removing these protections, which have been upheld as constitutional.

In 2013 America saw the face of late-term abortion during the trial of former Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of numerous crimes, including murdering one mother and three infants born alive during attempted abortion procedures. The grand jury report on Gosnell states that “he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy, and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors.”

In addition, there have been documented cases of babies born alive during attempted abortions who were left to die of neglect. The intersection of late-term abortions, the potential for live births, and the recent revelations of the transfer of fetal tissues or whole cadavers from clinics to researchers raise grave concerns.

Removing this protection from our statute will send a New York “welcome” signal to other late-term abortionists, who, like Kermit Gosnell, are often notorious for disregarding the health and safety of women and children. While states like Pennsylvania continue to have strong restrictions on late-term abortions and actually enforce these laws, the enactment of this legislation would encourage such practitioners to set up shop in New York, to the detriment of women and children.

Ironically, as this legislation seeks to remove protections in law for born-alive abortion survivors, Congress is moving in the opposite direction. On January 19, 2018 the US House of Representatives passed the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act” (HR 4712) to provide penalties for medical personnel who do not provide medical care to infants born alive following an abortion. We supported this measure, and we support the retention of Public Health Law Section 4164, because the right to abortion does not extend so far as to justify the denial of fundamental civil rights and legal protections to born, living human children. That is infanticide.

It will increase the state’s abortion rate.

As outlined above, we believe that Part B of this legislation would have dangerous consequences for women and infants. New York’s abortion numbers have been steadily decreasing, from 93,299 reported induced abortions in 2014 to 86,627 in 2015, according to the most recent report of the NYS Department of Health. We believe this misguided legislation would reverse this encouraging trend and only increase the tragedy of abortion in the Empire State.

Moreover, we do not believe that the issues of abortion and infanticide — which have nothing to do with government finances – belong within the construct of a state budget. While some of the “women’s agenda’ Article VII legislative proposals may have merit, they deserve to be voted on as individual policies/bills, as has been done in the past by the legislature on important women’s concerns such as human trafficking and pregnancy discrimination. We urge you to oppose S.7511/A.9511 unless Part B is completely stripped from the bill.

Thank you for your attention to these critical concerns.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/02/2018-19-testimony-on-womens-agenda-article-vii-legislation-s-7511-a-9511/

S.2721, Alcantara / A.4189, Nolan: In relation to the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act

Published on February 9th, 2018

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced legislation would address a number of the exemptions in New York’s labor, public health and workers compensation laws that currently prevent farmworkers from accessing rights and privileges available to other workers in New York State.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act, and strongly urges enactment of this legislation.

Farmworkers are excluded from many of the laws that establish worker protections, including overtime pay, employer contributions to the unemployment and workers’ compensation funds, and public health protections including sanitation and housing standards.  In addition to ending these exclusions, this bill would require that farmworkers be given a 24-hour day of rest in every calendar week which, whenever possible, would coincide with the laborer’s traditional day for religious worship.

In December 1999, legislation was enacted eliminating farmworkers’ exemption from the minimum wage laws.  Enactment of this bill would continue the process of economic justice for agricultural workers.  It would also grant collective bargaining rights to farm laborers.

There is no legitimate reason for treating farmworkers inequitably.  They should be afforded the same rights, protections and benefits that other workers in New York State receive.  It is unacceptable for farmworkers to be denied the basic labor, safety and health protections other workers enjoy.  Farmworkers make a significant contribution to the production of agricultural products in this great state, and are deserving of being treated with dignity.

By recognizing the rights of farmworkers and the unique contributions of agriculture, New York can develop policies which bring economic fairness, safety, and dignity to the production of agricultural goods from which we all benefit.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/02/farmworkers-fair-labor-practices-act/

2018-19 Human Services Budget Testimony

Published on February 6th, 2018

Submitted by Michael A. Lawler, Director for Catholic Charities, New York State Catholic Conference, at the Joint Legislative Budget Hearing regarding the 2018-19 Human Services budget.

February 6, 2018

Senator Young, Assembly Member Weinstein, distinguished members of the Senate Finance Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, ladies and gentlemen:

My name is Michael Lawler and I am the Director of Catholic Charities for the NYS Catholic Conference. Thank you for the opportunity to share our thoughts on the FY 2019 Executive Budget as it pertains to Human Services.

On January 16, 2018, the Executive Budget for FY 2019 was released and the NYS Council of Catholic Charities Directors were disappointed that critical investments for the nonprofit human services sector were not included in the proposed spending plan. As the NYS Legislature reviews the executive proposal and formulates its own priorities for FY 2019, we want to reiterate that these concerns for the vulnerable be addressed in the enacted spending plan.

Invest in the Human Services Sector

The NYS Council of Catholic Charities Directors is an advisory member of the Strong Nonprofits for a Better New York campaign, a statewide coalition of more than 350 nonprofit human services providers, calling for increased State investment in the sector’s workforce and infrastructure. Working under contract with the State, human services agencies provide crucial services to uplift New Yorkers from all walks of life. The State must ensure these organizations can continue their vital work.

Human Services agencies have not been receiving adequate state reimbursement to cover the full cost of providing essential services in the state. Without sufficient support for this sector, many nonprofit organizations will be faced with cutting services, reducing staff, or closing their programs.

Strong Nonprofits and the NYS Council of Catholic Charities Directors calls for the following investments to the nonprofit human services sector:

  • $65 MILLION (per year for 2 years) to provide a 3.25 percent salary increase for workers who have not seen an increase in over 8 years, and were not covered by the FY2018 increases for direct care workers at an equivalent 3.25% per year for two years;
  • $23 MILLION to fund the minimum wage increase for State contracts not yet adjusted to reflect the increased cost of service provision, leaving nonprofits to fill the gap of another unfunded mandate; and
  • $100 MILLION to continue to fund the Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Investment Program (NICIP), a crucial fund for nonprofits to address necessary building repairs, technology upgrades, and other capital needs not supported by current contracts.

Invest in Child Care Subsidies

The NYS Council of Catholic Charities Directors is also teaming up with Winning Beginning New York and the Empire State Campaign for Child Care to call for a much-needed investment in child care.

New York State needs a clear plan (both short- and long-term) to provide equitable access to quality child care for all New York children and working families, and a family sustaining income for child care providers. Too many working families who qualify for child care assistance are being turned away. Too many children are being shuffled around in make-do informal arrangements of non-professional caregivers. Too many working parents are being forced to reduce hours, or drop out of the work force all together. Too many providers are not able to retain qualified staff or meet the rising costs of providing quality care. And too many employers are dealing with problems of worker recruitment, retention and productivity related to child care.

While we work on the long-term plan, we must increase investments now to at least restore short-term stability to both the child care provider and subsidy systems. We must help put New Yorkers back to work, strengthen our child care infrastructure, and keep more children from falling through the cracks before they even learn to walk. This is a health, education and business imperative.

Therefore, we call on the New York Legislature and Governor Cuomo to increase our State investment in child care by at least $100 million in 2018. This investment can be drawn from several different areas of the budget and should be directed specifically to:

–Increase State funding to counties for child care subsidies by $31 million in order to:

  • Restore the child care subsidy program to the funding level established in 2016, adjusting for both the 2017 cut of $7 million and two years of inflation; and
  • Assist counties that regularly exhaust their child care funding allocations before meeting the needs of all eligible families, to expand the number of qualified families served.

–Increase State funding further to stabilize the child care workforce and infrastructure, and to ensure equitable access to quality care. Specifically, the state should:

  • Reinstate the 75th percentile formula to establish reimbursement rates expected to change in October 2018 to ensure that all children have equal access to high-quality care; and
  • Allocate funds to assist child care centers and group family day care providers that receive child care subsidies to cover increased wage costs (increases in minimum wage).

–Direct a portion of Economic Development funding dollars to further reduce the number of qualified families who are currently denied subsidy assistance, and to stabilize the child care workforce.

  • If directed toward expanding access to quality child care, such investment can remove barriers to broad workforce participation, support worker productivity, and bolster the local child care industry.
  • Increase State funding for the Child Care Facilitated Enrollment Projects in order to expand access to subsidies available to working families at higher income eligibility levels;
  • Expand and adjust the child and dependent care tax credit for maximum benefit. Adjusting the CDCTC to be allocated on a monthly or quarterly basis will help low-income families who live paycheck to paycheck to cover the costs of child care.

We appreciate the opportunity to submit testimony on the Human Services segments of the FY 2019 Executive Budget.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/02/2018-19-human-services-budget-testimony/

S.471-C, Peralta / A.9605-A, De La Rosa: In Relation to New York State DREAM Act

Published on February 2nd, 2018

Memorandum of Support

The above-referenced legislation would create the New York DREAM Fund Commission and would provide opportunities for immigrant students who meet certain criteria to be eligible for financial aid to assist them attend institutions of higher education.

The New York State Catholic Conference supports the New York State DREAM Act, and strongly urges enactment of this legislation.

The bill is an attempt to allow young people who have demonstrated a commitment to education and who are of good moral character to access financial aid opportunities without regard to immigration status, and would create a mechanism to raise money for college scholarships for the children of immigrants. Other states have passed similar legislation and New York State, with its history of welcoming immigrants, should be at the forefront of these efforts to support immigrant populations who have contributed so much to the vitality of our state. The chance to earn a higher education degree will allow these immigrant students to realize their potential and make a greater contribution to our economy.

Currently immigrants receive elementary and secondary education without regard to their immigration status. Many of these children have lived in this country from a very early age and know no other country as home. However, once they have their high school diplomas in hand, they are often blocked from continuing their education for financial reasons. The Commission established by this bill would raise funds to provide scholarships to deserving students who would be required to have taken steps to regularize their immigration status. These students would also be eligible for other awards and scholarships that would advance their educational opportunities. Parents and family members of students would also be eligible to participate in the NYS College Savings Program with an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).

The Catholic Conference has long advocated for a comprehensive immigration reform package at the federal level that includes an earned legalization program, secure borders that reduce risk to individuals and change in the immigration system that promotes family unity. In the interim there are steps that can be taken at the state level to improve the current situation. This legislation is one such effort.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the New York State Catholic Conference have voiced support for the federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Likewise, we support this legislation that we believe will afford deserving young immigrants an opportunity to pursue post-secondary education.

Article source: http://www.nyscatholic.org/2018/02/dream-act/