A letter from Sister Lucy Marie on the Westchester “Clinic Access Bill”

Dear Friends,

Thank you to those who were present last night (inside or outside) at the Westchester County Board of Legislators hearing dealing with legislation that would unfairly restrict the free speech rights of pro-life witnesses outside of abortion clinics.  Thank you to the parishes that hosted Holy Hours and vigils of prayer during the hearings.  Reports indicate that approx 150-200 people attended. http://www.lohud.com/article/20120501/NEWS02/304270094/Sides-face-off-Westchester-clinic-hearing?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|News.

The vote on the bill is scheduled for Monday, May 7.  As you know, the most effective advocacy comes from sustained contact between constituents and their legislators over a long period of time — visits, calls, emails, etc.  Please continue to make those contacts now.  The contacts should be simple, direct and always respectful.  To find the name of your legislator, go here: http://giswww.westchestergov.com/gismap/.  Email and other contact information can be found here: http://westchesterlegislators.com/legislators.html.

Here are the main items that could be mentioned:

This bill:

·         Contains vague and unclear definitions of the kinds of conduct that would be prohibited.  It would chill the free speech rights of persons seeking to provide information to women entering abortion clinics, out of fear of an arrest or civil suit based on an entirely ambiguous standard.

·         Is unnecessary.  There is no evidence that pro-life witnesses outside of abortion clinics are violating current provisions of city, state and federal law, and there are already ample civil and criminal remedies available for anyone who does so.

·         Is unfair to women, who have a right to information before they make the decision on whether or not to have an abortion.

Ed Mechmann, from our office, was there and being an attorney he has attended many such hearings in the past.  His comments are below:

We always have to remember that these hearings are not like court proceedings — it’s not like arguing to a neutral jury or a judge who’s open to hearing both sides.   Hearings may be a good place for the public airing of reasons for and against legislation, and some legislators may actually listen to what is being said.  Some of them are looking for a reason to take a position on a bill, and the hearing may give them that hook to hang their hat on. 

They can also help to establish a record for eventual challenges to the law.  In a way, it’s not so much what is said by the witnesses, but their presence and witness — so that the hearing becomes an indicator to the legislators of the depth of feeling about bills and a gauge of the political mood of the populace. 

The public witness of so many pro-lifers was a good sign — it sent a message to our allies on the Board that they have a lot of support, and hopefully gave some of the wavering members some reason to lean our way. 

 I thought that having so many “regular people” on our side — as opposed to the largely institutional witnesses on the other side (e.g., employees and activists from Planned Parenthood) — was a very good thing.  I think that the legislators are more impressed when lots of people testify who don’t make a living out of the issue at hand.  Five voters count for a lot more than one “spokesman”.

God bless you and let us together redouble our efforts of prayer and sacrifice for the conversion of hearts for the legislators who are promoting this, our adversaries and for the women and men contemplating abortion.  Finally let us always beg God for a deepening conversion of our own hearts during this Easter Season.

Sr. Lucy Marie

Respect Life Coordinator
Archdiocese of New York
1011 First Ave., 7th Floor
New York, NY 10022