A Catholic community of religious sisters today declared victory in their lawsuit against government officials who wanted access to the Sisters’ sensitive internal documents. In June 2022, New York passed a law targeting life-affirming pregnancy centers for government investigation. In Sisters of Life v. McDonald, the Sisters of Life—a community of Catholic women who have given their lives to serve pregnant women in need—asked a federal court for an order protecting them from such government intrusion. The State of New York agreed to a court order, which was granted today, that forbids them from demanding the Sisters’ information or punishing the Sisters for refusing to provide it.
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Founded in 1991 by the late Archbishop of New York, Cardinal John O’Connor, the Sisters of Life devote themselves to God by professing vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Sisters believe that every person is valuable and sacred, which is why they also take a vow to protect human life. In keeping with that vow, the Sisters offer holistic care for women in crisis pregnancies by attending to their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs at their Visitation Mission in New York. The Sisters provide women with housing, maternity clothes, baby formula, and other supplies for well after birth and connect women and their children to a wide array of free medical, legal, and social services. The Sisters also accompany women who are seeking hope and healing after their experience of abortion.
“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,” said Sr. Maris Stella, Vicar General of the Sisters of Life. “We are grateful for this victory, which protects our right to continue to uphold and defend the beauty and strength of women. 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. We are called to bring hope, comfort, and joy to women who feel they have nowhere else to turn. The judge’s order will protect us as we continue our ministry.”
Two weeks before the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, New York passed a law targeting the life-affirming work of pregnancy centers by authorizing the New York Commissioner of Health to demand private information from pregnancy centers that do not offer abortion services. The law would have allowed government officials access to the Sisters’ most sensitive internal documents and forced them to turn over private information that would jeopardize their trusting relationships with women in need. After the Sisters sued New York in federal court last year, the State agreed today to back down, allowing the Sisters to continue helping women in crisis pregnancies who seek their help.
“This order is a win for the Sisters and the women they serve,” said Mark Rienzi, president and CEO of Becket. “The government never should have enacted this law, and we are thrilled that it ends with a federal court order that the State should just leave the Sisters alone while they do their important work.”
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