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An Open Letter to Political Parties on the Drafting of Platforms for the 1996 Elections by the Catholic Bishops of New York State

As Catholic leaders and as responsible citizens, we are deeply involved in works which foster the dignity of each human life. The principle which guides our efforts is that human life is sacred and worthy of our care. This is why we feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for the aged and seek to protect unborn children.

We ask you, too, in drafting your platform, to make respect for human life your touchstone, your focus, your reasoning, for every position you hold. Never before in the history of our nation has this been more urgently needed.

We urge you to reject a "pro-choice" position on abortion. For at the heart of the abortion issue lies the question: "What is the moral value of each human life?" And from the heart of the American, the Republican and the Democratic traditions, we would suggest, comes the unequivocal answer -- all human lives have equal dignity and value. No court, no legislature, no political party can validly assign lesser value to the lives of some.

A "pro-choice" position, in any party's political platform, in effect means acceptance of legal abortion throughout pregnancy and historically has led to abortion on demand, even when unborn children are viable, even when brutal methods unworthy of a civilized society are used.

A legal system which permits the destruction of unborn life denies the humanity of the unborn and therefore denies the responsibility of government to protect the inherent and inalienable rights of the unborn.

Similarly, we urge your platform to specifically reject policies which condone euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. Recent court decisions have erroneously read into the Constitution an unprecedented "right" which allows one person to facilitate the killing of another person. Such misguided judicial activism severely erodes the value and dignity of human life.

Rather than assistance in dying, we urge your platform to promote assistance in living, through expansion of hospice programs, pain management and palliative care. It is only through such support and compassion that we will affirm the dignity of life at every stage of existence.

Support for legal abortion and euthanasia is antithetical to the American tradition of extending special care and support to the vulnerable to give them truly equal opportunity. This is a tradition of which we are rightly proud and rightly protective. We urge all political parties to shape their platforms first and foremost by how they touch each human person. We ask you to attend to the needs of vulnerable families and children, especially the unborn, the sick, the elderly and the poor. We ask you to respect the life and enhance the dignity of all our brothers and sisters. A consistently pro-life platform is the only truly inclusive position, upholding the inalienable rights of all human beings.

John Cardinal O'Connor
Archdiocese of New York

Most Rev. Paul S. Loverde
Diocese of Ogdensburg

Most Rev. Matthew R. Clark
Diocese of Rochester

Most Rev. Henry J. Mansell
Diocese of Buffalo

Most Rev. Thomas V. Daily
Diocese of Brooklyn

Most Rev. John R. McGann
Diocese of Rockville Centre

Most Rev. Howard J. Hubbard
Diocese of Albany

Most Rev. James Moynihan
Diocese of Syracuse

Adopted June 14,1996
Transmitted July 24, 1996


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