Sisters of Life, a community of Catholic religious sisters who run a crisis pregnancy centre in New York recently won a lawsuit that had been filed against New York’s health department, resulting in the department agreeing not to include the community in a probe of other centres.
The case began in September 2022 when the Sisters of Life sued the Commissioner of the New York state Department of Health at the time, Mary Bassett, regarding a bill that had been passed in New York that June that would allow for an investigation and report on what they defined as “limited service pregnancy centres”.
These would include organisations such as Sisters for Life as they do not refer pregnant women for abortions.
Sisters of Life was founded in 1991 by the late Cardinal John O'Connor of New York and since then they have been committed to caring for women in crisis pregnancies. In addition to connecting women and their children with a range of free medical, legal, and social services following childbirth, this care also entails housing, maternity clothing, baby formula, and other supplies.
Had the lawsuit been lost, the New York bill would have granted government access to the internal documents and records of the religious community. The sisters expressed that they were "grateful" for the Nov. 8 directive. Sister Maris Stella, Vicar General of the Sisters of Life, made a statement voicing that “As Sisters of Life, it’s our privilege to walk alongside each woman who comes to us and to stand in solidarity with her, helping her to move in freedom, not in fear,” she continued, “we are grateful for this victory, which protects our right to continue to uphold and defend the beauty and strength of women”.
The state health department promised in the order, granted by United States District Judge Jennifer Rearden and accepted by both parties, that it would not pursue any enforcement action against the Sisters of Life for “nonresponse or noncompliance with any survey, document request, or information request of any kind.”
When the health department releases the report required by the bill, the order will come to an end. Additionally, it specifies that no other organisation is shielded from participating in the health department report by the order; it only applies to the Sisters of Life.
The lawsuit's central bill was approved as part of a six-bill pro-abortion package signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul in June 2022, before Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court.
This legislation shields doctors from charges of misconduct for performing lawful abortions, stops defendants in abortion-related cases from being extradited if they are charged in another state, and safeguards the contact information of volunteers and staff who assist abortion providers.
“In over 30 years of serving women in the State of New York, we have learned that what a woman really needs is to be seen, heard, and believed in, which is why we are committed to providing the necessary emotional, practical, and spiritual support for her to flourish,” Sister Maris Stella said.
She declared that the Sisters of Life are committed to bringing “hope, comfort, and joy” to the women who are feeling alone or lost in crisis pregnancies.
Photo Credit: Sisters for Life