An estimated 100 people representing dozens of churches gathered Tuesday at Mt. Olive Baptist Church on Buffalo’s East Side to proclaim their opposition to abortion.
"We are ready to stand for life publicly and to ask others to join us in the dignity of the human person at all stages," said Cheryl Calire, who directs the Buffalo Diocese’s office of pro-life activities.
New York Pastors for Life is organizing in response to the Reproductive Health Act Governor Cuomo signed into law in January.
"You know, for too long, New York State has pitted the woman against her unborn child," said Rev. Jason McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedom.
"And we’re here to say, and to simply ask the question, ‘Why can’t we love them both?’”
McGuire says there’s been an “awakening” across the state since the new law’s passage.
Debora McDell-Hernandez, senior director of public and community affairs at Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York, agrees there has been "an increase in reaction to the passing of RHA."
She maintains some of the reaction has been based on false information about what’s in the law. For example, claims "that a woman could get an abortion right when she’s in labor, and that’s not how medical care works.”
The Reproductive Health Act codified the federal protections for women and medical providers outlined by Roe v. Wade into New York State law. It also removed abortion from the criminal code.
“Women need to be empowered to make the most difficult choice and have the baby," said Jim Harden, president and CEO of CompassCare Pregnancy Services in Rochester.
"If she says to herself, ‘I see now how I can do this,’ with the support and security that the church can give her, then she is truly empowered. Then her decision is truly un-coerced," said Harden, who also raised concerns about the high rate of African American women seeking abortions in Erie County.
“As a person of color, I am extremely insulted by that because reproductive health access should be obtainable for everyone regardless of race, and I think that’s irrelevant,” said Robin Chappelle Golston, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts.
The group is still determining what its next steps will be, according to Rev. Al Warner of Set Free Ministries in Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Warner is part of the steering committee of New York Pastors for Life.
“Much of this conflict has been shoot-from-the-hip, and we want to make sure that we’re moving in a more reflective and deliberate way as we take steps forward.”