Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, has found himself in the crosshairs of Catholics after he signed a law which declares that women have the right to have abortions if they so choose. As the Daily Caller reports, lay leaders are proclaiming that Cuomo, who is Catholic, should be excommunicated for his actions. New York's Catholic bishops voiced their disapproval of the law in an open letter that disputed Cuomo's claim that it represented "progress."
"This is not progress. Progress will be achieved when our laws and our culture once again value and respect each unrepeatable gift of human life, from the first moment of creation to natural death," the bishops' letter read.
According to Catholic Straight Answers, excommunication is one of the harshest penalties that the Catholic Church can hand down and it is normally reserved for people who have committed "a particularly grave sin and engaging in activities which cause grave scandal and fracture the body of the Church." When a Catholic is excommunicated, it means that they cannot receive sacraments like The Holy Communion but it does not override their baptism, so it means they can still attend mass.
American bishops have used this type of censure against elected Catholic officials before. As the Catholic Herald reported, Senator Dick Durbin was prohibited from receiving communion last year after he voted against a pro-life bill that sought to criminalize abortions committed after the fetus was 20 weeks old. The Church stopped short of excommunicating him, though.The abortion law that Governor Cuomo signed is called the Reproductive Health Act. It does much more than enshrine a woman's right to an abortion in state law, as it deletes abortions from New York's criminal code. As the Daily Caller noted, it also allows women to have these procedures after 24 weeks absence of fetal viability, or at "any time when necessary to protect a patient's life or health." The law also includes physicians' assistants, nurse practitioners, and "qualified health care professionals" on the list of people who are legally permitted to carry out abortions.
The law was signed on the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court ruling which legalized abortion in the United States. The Reproductive Health Act will help to protect abortion rights in New York if this pivotal case is ever overturned, CNN reported.
"Today we are taking a giant step forward in the hard-fought battle to ensure a woman's right to make her own decisions about her own personal health, including the ability to access an abortion," Cuomo said on Tuesday after signing the act into law. "With the signing of this bill, we are sending a clear message that whatever happens in Washington, women in New York will always have the fundamental right to control their own body,"