Archive for the ‘Pro-Life’ Category

The Advent of our King and the Culture of Life

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

(Last night, I was given the “Our Lady of Guadalupe Family Life Award” at the annual dinner for the support of the Montfort Academy, the wonderful high school dedicated to classical Catholic education, in full fidelity to the Church.  I’d like to share with you the text of my remarks at the award dinner.)

I would like to thank you for inviting me here to this great event, and for giving me such a splendid award.  It is especially gratifying to receive an award like this from an institution that is doing so much to build and sustain a Culture of Life.  I often think that awards like this reflect more the generosity of the giver, than the merits of the recipient.  But I’m very grateful to you, and I’m also most grateful to God for the many opportunities he has given to me, to give witness to the Gospel of Life.  All glory to God!

I think it is particularly appropriate that we’re speaking of the Gospel of Life, and our efforts to create a Culture of Life, here in the season of Advent, on this great feast day.  We are preparing ourselves for the coming of the Kingdom of God, and the coming of our King — revolutionary events that have changed the world.  We are living in anticipation of our salvation, which comes to us through hope (Rom. 8:24) and fills us with great joy.

Of course, when we look around our world, many people are wondering if there is any evidence for that hope, or indeed any hope at all for our world.  There is reason for that concern — our society is in the grips of a culture of death, and is very deeply wounded.

We’re all aware of the threats at the beginning of life. Abortion on demand is the law of our land, we’ve seen the re-election of a president who is fully committed to an anti-life agenda, a Supreme Court decision upholding a health care law that institutionalizes abortion, and the spread of the contraceptive mentality that views children not as a gift, but as a threat to be suppressed.

At the end of life, we see continued threats, hidden behind jargon like “quality of life” and “medical futility” or a utilitarian calculation of the allocation of scarce resources.

The family and marriage, are under attack in our courts and legislatures, and we will once again be at the mercy of a Supreme Court decision on such a fundamental issue.

And, we are also aware of those among us who have been wounded — including millions of women and men who suffer in the aftermath of an abortion, as well as the victims of family breakdown.

Our society needs healing from these deep wounds.  We are seeking some relief, but it’s very hard to find because we are all too often blinded by our wounds.  I am reminded of the poignant World War One painting by John Singer Sargent, called “Gassed”, which shows a line of injured soldiers, blinded by a poison gas attack, stumbling ahead to find a medical station.

From all appearances, the state of our wounded world seems very bleak. And yet, and yet…

We know something that the world does not.  We know a truth that the world does not recognize, or has forgotten — a truth about the human person, about human society, and about our relationship with God.  We know that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, and that every human person — and human society as a whole — has been sanctified and redeemed by Jesus.  This vision is attractive and compelling to people — because it is true.

We understand also that there is a law higher than any human law, a law that demands our obedience because it was written by God into our very nature.  This natural law offers us a vision of the common good and justice, that recognizes and defends human dignity, and allows for authentic human development.

In fact, we know that there’s a revolution going on.  It’s a revolution of life and love. We know that there is a King whose reign is on the rise.  We have a hope that the world can never thwart.  And we know that this revolution — and this King — will bring peace and healing to our world.

If we were to rely only on the media, we would be hard pressed to see this.  But we can see it, because of our unique perspective.  As the Letter to the Hebrews puts it, we are “strangers and exiles” (Heb 11:16), “for here we have no lasting city” (Heb 13:14).  Saint Augustine explained that we are citizens of the City of God, but we are still deeply engaged in the City of Man.  We may feel that we are in a kind of Babylonian captivity, but we heed the words of God through the Prophet Jeremiah, “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer 29:7).

From this perspective, we can see the revolution of love in so many places:

  • At the March for Life, with thousands of young people who are unashamed to announce that they are pro-life and proud.
  • In the movement to embrace and promote chastity, where happy, joyful young people openly live lives of purity and beauty.
  • In the opinion polls, which show a genuine shift towards pro-life positions.
  • In legislatures around the nation, passing pro-life laws to protect women and children.
  • In the explosion of pro-life apostolic work, particularly the assistance given to women in crisis pregnancies, those with adverse pre-natal diagnosis, and those suffering in the aftermath of abortion.
  • In the growing numbers of  pro-life lawyers, doctors, and other professionals, who are making their profession a vocation.
  • In the dedication to prayer as the heart and soul of all of our efforts.
  • In the new, openly pro-life religious communities (like the Sisters of Life), which are booming.
  • In the revitalization of our Church, particularly in the renewal of traditional liturgy and devotions, and a new commitment to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  • And, of course, in the enterprise that you are all engaged in — the revival of authentic Catholic education, in all the richness of tradition, which answers the hunger for truth and fosters a love of fidelity.
  • In all these areas, and in many more, the Culture of Life is being built.  We argue, we convince, we give witness, we serve, we share, we suffer with, and we pray.  We work for the welfare of this great nation.  And we point out to our world the path to the healing it so desperately needs.  Of course, this is not easy — it is a struggle, it’s hard work.

    This struggle is nothing new.  Our revolution began in an ancient society immersed in death and sin, which was yearning for redemption and healing.  It started in a small family home in Nazareth, where a young woman said “yes” to that strange and fearful message from an angel.  It followed our great King as he healed and preached the truth, as he made his way to Calvary.  It burst forth from the empty tomb and caught fire in the upper room.  It spread through homes and families across the world, inspiring ordinary people who have struggled with all the difficulties and trials of their own times.  It strode bravely into the arena where it shed blood and inspired poetry.

    Our revolution has always been opposed by the forces of the world.  But through it all, it has brought healing and peace to the suffering of every nation and has boldly held aloft the standard of our King.

    That standard has now been passed to us. We may be strangers and exiles in this land, but the battle has been joined — in our families, in our marriages, in our parishes, in our schools, in our communities, in our voting booths, in our legislatures, in our courts.  In our hearts.

    Advent is here.  Our King is at hand.  Where else would we rather be, except in this struggle, in this time, at the side of our King, at the side of our Queen?

    All glory and honor to our King Jesus Christ, now and forever.  Amen.

    The View from Under the Bus

    Monday, December 3rd, 2012

    After the election, we have seen much discussion about why the Republican Party lost the Presidential election and failed to pick up some initially-promising Senate seats.  One of the proposals that we hear often is that the GOP should jettison “social conservatives”, or at least declare a “truce” on “social issues” like abortion and the re-definition of marriage.

    Far be it from me to give advice to the sage experts who have piloted the GOP to such electoral triumphs.  Nor is it my business to get involved in political strategy for a party that I am not even a member of.

    The reason I am interested in this question is that we are starting to hear a similar idea from pro-lifers — a sense that the political mission of our movement has either failed, or reached a final impasse, and that we need to re-direct our energies away from the political and public policy arenas, and focus instead on a more cultural approach to defending and promoting life.

    I think this is a fundamental mis-diagnosis of the current state of things in our nation, and it falsely sets up an unnecessary either/or, zero-sum choice.

    The current state of the pro-life movement’s political and public policy status depends on where you are standing.  Obviously, things may seem quite bleak in a place like New York City, which is essentially a one-party state dominated by a Democratic party that is almost completely dedicated to hard-line pro-abortion policies.  But that view can be deceptive.  In other areas of New York State, there is a functioning GOP that is at least theoretically supportive of pro-life policies, and there are still some staunch pro-life Democrats around.  The picture here in New York is quite daunting, there’s no doubt about it — but it’s certainly not time to throw in the towel.

    Of course, New York is not all of America (it’s not even part of the real world, but that’s another issue).  If you were standing in Oklahoma, Texas, North Dakota, Florida, South Carolina, or many other states, the picture would be much more encouraging.  Many public officials and candidates in those states proudly proclaim their pro-life views, and they have passed common-sense pro-life laws, like parental notification, informed consent, and abortion clinic regulations.  In fact, the public policy and political successes of our movement on the state level have proven to be a consternation to the pro-abortion forces, who continually complain about how many laws we have been able to pass.

    At a time when our movement is making progress on the state and local level, it’s no time to declare defeat — or a “truce”.

    But it’s more than a mere question of how many bills are passed, or how many candidates are willing to say they’re “pro-life”.  We’re engaged in a battle over our culture, which means that we’re striving to convert the hearts and minds of our brothers and sisters.  Our goal is not just to make abortion illegal, but to make it unthinkable.

    In this kind of struggle, it would be folly to abandon an entire field of the contest. The real question isn’t “politics or culture”, as if we can only work on one thing at a time.  Our challenge is to get better at transforming both.

    We absolutely need to ramp up our efforts to provide assistance to expectant mothers and fathers in crisis — that’s ground zero in the struggle to eliminate abortion.  We definitely need to offer more resources for those who are suffering the aftermath of abortion.  We have to reverse the anti-life, anti-chastity messages of our media, which create a climate of sexual adventurism and a contraceptive mentality.  All these are legitimate areas for the pro-life movement to improve and enhance our work.

    But law and politics are part of culture too.  They affect public opinion and shape private actions.  There is a growing body of opinion, especially among young people, that our nation has gone too far on abortion — that it’s a disgrace that 41% of New York City pregnancies end in abortion (the numbers are even worse in the African-American community), that horrifically unsafe abortion clinics are allowed to maim and kill women with impunity, that parents are excluded from their children’s key decisions about abortion and contraception, that handicapped children are routinely aborted, and that women are not being presented with all the choices available to them.

    Fewer and fewer people are satisfied with our country having the most liberal abortion laws in the world, and with a political, media and cultural “elite” who are so degraded that they think this is a good thing.

    There is a quiet cultural and political revolution on the way.  Our young brethren will lead it.  This is no time to end the struggle over abortion in the public square.

    It’s time to stand firm.

    Be Thankful for a Growing Culture of Life

    Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

    (I was asked by to contribute my thoughts to a forum on National Review Online, about what we have to be thankful for in the current political and cultural climate.  Here is what I submitted.)

    In the aftermath of the elections, many of us who are engaged in the struggle to promote a Culture of Life are having a hard time seeing any cause for thanksgiving.  A committed anti-life Administration was brought back into office, the defense of authentic marriage suffered a setback, and many commentators are suggesting that the Republican Party jettison its pro-life, pro-marriage positions.  On the world stage, peace seems more elusive than ever. In such an environment, can we see anything to be thankful for?

    While our modern media tends to concentrate on the big picture, the reality is that a true Culture of Life is the product of a myriad of decisions made on the personal, individual level.  When we look there, we see hope.  We see fewer abortions taking place in America, as more individual women and men choose life over death, and more families support and welcome them.  We see more women and men speaking out about the pain of their abortions, and the healing they’ve experienced through ministries like the Sisters of Life.  We see more young people standing up for purity and virtue, like the Generation Life missionaries in the Archdiocese of New York.  We see young adults at Pre-Cana classes choosing to get married, instead of conforming to the emotional dead end of the hook-up and cohabitation mentality.

    Such small steps are invisible to our media culture, but plain to see for those who look in the right place.  By the grace of God and the cooperation of everyday people, a Culture of Life is being built within the ruins of our age, one heart and one life at a time.  That gives us great cause for thanksgiving.

    A Hero Among Heroes

    Friday, October 19th, 2012

    Last night, the media and the political world were all focused on the Al Smith Dinner, where Cardinal Dolan hosted the two presidential candidates and many of the leading public officials and political figures from New York and across the nation.

    I’m sure it was a wonderful event, full of the best professionally-written jokes.  But they were all looking at the wrong dinner.

    I had the good fortune of being at the right one — the annual Great Defender of Life Dinner, hosted by the invaluable Human Life Review.  Every year, this event gathers pro-lifers from New York and around the nation, to offer an evening of fellowship and mutual support.  It gives us a chance to see the real face of the pro-life movement — not the blinkered media stereotype, but the wonderful, dedicated people who are committed to protecting and preserving human life at all stages.  It is a celebration of their love for each other, love for God, and love for the precious gift of life.  So many quiet, ordinary people — so many heroes for life, building a true civilization of love in their everyday lives.

    Every year, there is an award for a Great Defender of Life, and this year there were two recipients.  The first was Advocates for Life, an organization of young pro-life attorneys and law students who are dedicated to resisting the culture of death that is so deeply entrenched in the law and in the legal community.  It is very uplifting to see so many of my fellow attorneys who have enlisted in this great cause.

    The second honoree has a special significance for me — former Senator and federal judge James Buckley.  For those of us who came of political age in the Seventies, Mr. Buckley was a major formative figure.  A man of deep moral fibre, he was a model to us that it was possible to be a man of principle in the world of politics.  On so many of the crucial issues of the day, he gave witness to the importance of high moral standards, and a commitment to the common good of all.

    In his long and distinguished career, one of the highlights was his sponsorship of the Human Life Amendment.  This was the first comprehensive attempt to overturn the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, and Senator Buckley’s 1975 floor speech in support of the amendment is a classic statement of the fundamental pro-life position.  (This speech can be found in the Human Life Review’s volume on “The Debate Since Roe” — a must read for pro-lifers)

    Before the dinner, I had an opportunity to meet Mr. Buckley, and I was able to tell him that he has long been one of my heroes.  In his typically humble, self-effacing manner, he accepted my compliment and managed to turn it into a genial joke, precisely what one would expect from a true Catholic gentleman.

    Last year, the honoree at the dinner was Paul Greenberg, the great journalist and essayist.  During his address, he said something that has stayed with me, and that should haunt all of us: “Whether the issue is civil rights in the middle years of the 20th Century or abortion and euthanasia today, a still small voice keeps asking: Whose side are you on? That of life or of death?”

    To many of us, that still small voice was heard in the soft, erudite tones of our Senator James Buckley, speaking gently but firmly, giving witness consistently and heroically for life, and encouraging us all to join him in that noble cause.

    May we all answer in the same way as did this Great Defender of Life.

    There Is Another Way

    Saturday, September 15th, 2012

    Over the last week, like many Americans, I have watched the news videos of violence around the world.  I have been shocked and angered by the attacks on American embassies and Western businesses, and the murder of innocent persons.  I have also listened and read the responses of our political leaders and pundits — all of whom, it seems, are advocating for retaliation, the use of force, and more violence.

    But there is another way here.  We do not always have to resort to more violence, more killing.  Legitimate self-defense is necessary, but we have to question and challenge every use of force.  Violence is not the only way to deal with problems.  There is also the way of peace.

    Pope Benedict is in Lebanon right now, giving a courageous personal witness to that way.  And he is using his position as Vicar of Christ to tell us that we need to seek peace and justice, and not to perpetuate the violence.   His address to the public officials who greeted him in Lebanon is a profound and eloquent call to the way of peace, and should be read, studied, and taken to heart by all our political leaders.

    A few highlights are worth sharing here. On the dignity of the human person as the foundation of a peaceful society:

    The energy needed to build and consolidate peace also demands that we constantly return to the wellsprings of our humanity. Our human dignity is inseparable from the sacredness of life as the gift of the Creator. In God’s plan, each person is unique and irreplaceable. A person comes into this world in a family, which is the first locus of humanization, and above all the first school of peace. To build peace, we need to look to the family, supporting it and facilitating its task, and in this way promoting an overall culture of life. The effectiveness of our commitment to peace depends on our understanding of human life. If we want peace, let us defend life! This approach leads us to reject not only war and terrorism, but every assault on innocent human life, on men and women as creatures willed by God… We must combine our efforts, then, to develop a sound vision of man, respectful of the unity and integrity of the human person. Without this, it is impossible to build true peace.

    On the need for solidarity among people as the path to peace:

    Mankind is one great family for which all of us are responsible. By questioning, directly or indirectly, or even before the law, the inalienable value of each person and the natural foundation of the family, some ideologies undermine the foundations of society. We need to be conscious of these attacks on our efforts to build harmonious coexistence. Only effective solidarity can act as an antidote, solidarity that rejects whatever obstructs respect for each human being, solidarity that supports policies and initiatives aimed at bringing peoples together in an honest and just manner…  Nowadays, our cultural, social and religious differences should lead us to a new kind of fraternity wherein what rightly unites us is a shared sense of the greatness of each person and the gift which others are to themselves, to those around them and to all humanity. This is the path to peace! This is the commitment demanded of us! This is the approach which ought to guide political and economic decisions at every level and on a global scale!

    And on conversion of heart that all are called to:

    A new and freer way of looking at these realities will enable us to evaluate and challenge those human systems which lead to impasses, and to move forward with due care not to repeat past mistakes with their devastating consequences. The conversion demanded of us can also be exhilarating, since it creates possibilities by appealing to the countless resources present in the hearts of all those men and women who desire to live in peace and are prepared to work for peace. True, it is quite demanding: it involves rejecting revenge, acknowledging one’s faults, accepting apologies without demanding them, and, not least, forgiveness. Only forgiveness, given and received, can lay lasting foundations for reconciliation and universal peace.

    The Holy Father is calling upon all of us to look at the deplorable situation in our world in a new light — the light of the Gospel, which is the light of love.  We must demand that our political leaders break free of the false consciousness that impels them to advocate for violence in response to violence, to force in opposition to force, and to power against power.

    God demands that we live in peace with our brethren around the world, regardless of our differences.  Our Holy Father is showing us the way.  Let us pray that our political leaders will see that, and choose the way of peace.

    Protecting our Pro-Life Brand

    Thursday, August 30th, 2012

    I am known among my friends and colleagues as a political geek, so I am frequently asked my opinion about particular candidates.  One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “Is he pro-life?”

    I think that we pro-lifers really need to start to pay attention to protecting the integrity of our brand name, because it is becoming seriously diluted.

    Certainly, lots of politicians will describe themselves as “pro-life”, when it is to their political advantage.  But what does that mean?

    If they mean “opposed to stabbing babies in the neck and sucking out their brains” (partial-birth abortion), or “opposed to strangling babies born alive despite the abortion” (the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act), then that’s definitely a “pro-life” position.  If the standard is “won’t force people to pay for or perform abortions against their religious beliefs” (the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act), then that’s a “pro-life” position too.   We could go beyond individual pieces of legislation, and if the candidate “won’t appoint Planned Parenthood or NARAL ideologues to key policy positions”, then that’s a “pro-life” position as well.

    So a person’s stand on specific issues, and their track record on particular policy matters, are clearly important — actions speak louder than words.

    But the label “pro-life” has to mean more than just “how many boxes can I check off on this list, so that people can be convinced to call me ‘pro-life'”.  If that’s all it is, the term has become meaningless — and we will always be vulnerable to manipulation by politicians and interest groups with malleable principles but the ability to craft clever position papers.

    I guess I’m just tired of hearing people describe a candidate as “pro-life” when the best that can be said about him is that he’s “anti-abortion in most cases”, or that he’s just “better than the other guy”.  We should demand more of our politicians, and we should demand more of ourselves. Otherwise, we’ll never get anything more than what we’ve been getting for years — lip service at election time, crumbs from the table afterwards.

    Being “pro-life” — as opposed to merely taking “pro-life” positions — has a much broader and deeper meaning.  It involves a recognition of the sacredness of life, its inherent dignity, that views each individual human being as having inestimable value because he or she is made in the image and likeness of God.  It rejects a reductionist or utilitarian view of humanity, where lives are disposable if they are inconvenient, not “useful”, or if they came into being in a way that we disapprove.   It entails a commitment to defending each and every life against abuse, from whatever source.  It calls people to acts of direct service to the poor, the vulnerable, and the frail.  It is an attitude of reverence in the divine presence, seen in every human person.

    To get a sense of what our “pro-life brand” really means, people should take a look at the beautiful statement by the U.S. bishops, Living the Gospel of Life.  Certainly, Pope John Paul’s great encyclical The Gospel of Life should also be studied.

    The goal of the “pro-life” movement is not just to win elections, pass particular bills, or appoint specific people to courts.  The goal is to transform hearts and minds, so that we can build a Culture of Life and Civilization of Love.

    That’s the real definition of our brand, and we should protect it and market it to a culture that desperately needs it, and to people who hunger for it.  The real “pro-life” brand will sell itself, because it speaks to the truths that are already written deep in the human heart.

    Hard Cases, Small Steps

    Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

    The political world has been abuzz lately over comments made by a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Missouri.  When asked about whether pro-lifers would accept a ban on abortion that permitted an exception for rape or incest, the candidate made some ill-conceived remarks that seemed to minimize the horror of rape.  This incident has now been used by the forces of the Culture of Death (including their allies in the media) to flog pro-lifers as being radical or anti-woman.

    Some clarification and explanation is in order.

    The unquestioned goal of the pro-life movement is a conversion of the hearts of individuals, and thus of our culture, so that every innocent life is protected from conception until natural death.  This protection will involve changes in the law so that the practice — and even the concept — of abortion would be completely eradicated from our land.  Given our presumption that every human life has inestimable value, and that innocent life cannot be taken, we work towards the ultimate goal of enacting laws to prohibit abortion with no exceptions.  One vehicle for this would be a Human Life Amendment.

    In short, we aim to build a Culture of Life, in which all lives are valued.  To get a glimpse of this goal, and how we can get there, I suggest that people read the great statement by the United States Bishops, Living the Gospel of Life.

    Unfortunately, our culture is not yet ready to accept the changes in attitude and in law that we are seeking.  While there have been shifts in public opinion over the years in favor of the pro-life position, there are still a large number of individuals who either approve of abortion, or who are willing to tolerate it for a perceived “greater good”.  We must redouble our efforts to reach out to our brothers and sisters who believe this, to convert their hearts.

    One way that we seek to achieve this conversion of heart is by taking  incremental steps towards our ultimate goal — in short, building a Culture of Life, brick by brick.  This is why we support measures that limit and restrict abortion in various ways, such as parental notification laws, bans on late-term abortions, and such.  By supporting these initiatives, we are not accepting the morality of abortion — we are seeking to mitigate the damage, and to use these bills as a vehicle to educate people about abortion, as a way of calling them to conversion.  This approach to legislation was specifically approved by Pope John Paul II in his encyclical The Gospel of Life (see paragraph 73).

    This is where the “rape exception” comes into play.  Pro-lifers hold steadfastly to the fundamental truth that a baby conceived in a rape is an innocent human being whose life may never be directly terminated.  We see rape as a horrific act, an inexcusable violation of the dignity of a woman, a depraved crime that should be severely punished by law.  We believe that a woman victimized by rape must receive our support as she strives for healing.  But we do not accept that the path to healing passes through the abortion clinic.  We firmly believe that one cannot heal a victim of violence, by taking the life of another innocent person.

    Unfortunately, many people disagree with us — people who either consider themselves pro-life, or who are willing to support some of our goals.  These people are potential allies as we try to pass common-sense laws to restrict abortion.  We wish to build alliances and coalitions with these potential supporters, not alienate them.  So, many pro-lifers in the political and policy arena are willing to tolerate a “rape exception” to a ban on abortion.   That is not to say that we consider such an exception as a final goal — but we take what we can get, when we can get it, and press on from there, always moving forwards.

    There’s an old adage that “hard cases make bad law”.  They also make unsatisfactory compromises, and disappointment.  But they sometimes can produce small steps towards our ultimate goal.


    Polling Life

    Saturday, May 26th, 2012

    Kathryn Lopez of National Review Online recently invited me to contribute to an symposium commenting on recent poll results that show a drop in the number of people who consider themselves to be “pro-choice” (to an all-time low of 41%), and a rise in those who call themselves “pro-life” (to 51%).  When you break out the numbers in the poll, it actually is a bit more encouraging — 72% think abortion should be restricted to some or no circumstances.

    Here is what I contributed to the symposium:

    Recent poll results, which show a significant decline in the number of Americans who identify themselves as “pro-choice,” will no doubt surprise many people. After all, didn’t the Supreme Court claim, in its Casey decision, that it had settled the issue of abortion? Hasn’t abortion become such an integral part of women’s health that it is impossible to conceive of American society without it?

    That is certainly the conventional wisdom. But this conventional wisdom is utterly wrong, because the power of the truth and love will always find a way into the human heart. As more people experience the wonder of modern sonograms and fetal photographs, they are enthralled by the beauty of human life. And they are repelled by the inhumanity of “pro-choice” advocates who callously speak of unborn people as disposable when inconvenient. People recognize that attitude as false, and unloving.

    The challenge for defenders of life is to build upon this fundamental sense of the truth about human life, and the love it engenders. Certainly, we must work for laws that give commonsense protection for the unborn, and that encourage the choice for life. But even more important, we must continue to give clear and unambiguous witness to love — by speaking with compassion and kindness about this issue, and by giving practical help to struggling mothers and fathers, and to those who are suffering after an abortion.

    More and more people are seeing the truth and rejecting the lies. And this is opening the human heart to the love that will ultimately transform our culture.

    The Power of the Truth

    Friday, May 4th, 2012

    On April 30, I attended the public meeting of the Westchester Board of Legislators, to present the statement of the Archdiocese in opposition of the “clinic access” bill that would unfairly restrict the free speech rights of pro-life witnesses outside of abortion clinics.

    That statement reads as follows:

    A bill is now pending before the Westchester Board of Legislators, which will violate the Constitutional rights of those who give pro-life witness outside abortion clinics.

    We urgently call upon all members of the Board to oppose this unjust bill.

    This bill is premised upon the false assumption that there is a significant problem with disorder outside of abortion clinics. Actually, law-abiding citizens give peaceful and prayerful pro-life witness on a regular basis, offering valuable information to women approaching the clinics without violating any of the currently-existing federal and state laws regarding access to abortion clinics. Despite such a clear record of respect for the law, this legislation is designed to prevent pro-life advocates from speaking freely merely because their speech is considered unwelcome by some powerful interest groups that favor and profit from abortion.

    This legislation is fundamentally unfair to ordinary citizens who wish to express their Constitutional rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion. It is vague and ambiguous so that ordinary people could not possibly know what kinds of behavior or speech are prohibited.  Ultimately, it is unfair to women who have a right to information before they make their decision
    as to whether or not to have an abortion.

    This legislation does a disservice to these women, to their unborn children, and to society as a whole, and should therefore be rejected.

    I have been present at many legislative hearings, and I generally have low expectations.  We have to bear in mind that most legislative 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.  The legislators have largely made up their minds already.  But in some cases, hearings are 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.  I have been to several hearings where there was good interaction between legislators and witnesses.  Not many, but a few.

    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.

    In that light, the hearing was fairly typical of what I’ve experienced.  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.  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”.

    The most powerful testimony was given by a young African-American woman, who spoke of her own abortions, and how she has come to regret them.  She has now dedicated herself to going to abortion clinics, and giving sidewalk counseling to other women contemplating abortion, to make sure that they understand that they have a choice.

    But there were so many others, who stood outside on long lines in the cold, awaiting an opportunity to come into the legislative chamber.  The hearing went on until after midnight, and many stayed until the wee hours to present their own testimony.

    The struggle against this bill is not over.  A final vote will be taken on May 7.  We are hoping that the County Executive will veto the bill, and that there will be enough votes on the Board to sustain the veto.  Residents of Westchester should contact their legislators — even if they’ve done so already, they should do it again, and again, and again.  To find the name of your legislator, go here.  Email and other contact information can be found here. The most effective advocacy comes from sustained contact between constituents and their legislators over a long period of time — visits, calls, emails, etc.

    So often, we feel powerless in the face of the large, powerful and rich forces that are arrayed against us.

    But the power of the truth, and the witness of those who are willing to testify to it with love, can never be underestimated.

    Another Threat to Freedom

    Friday, April 27th, 2012

    On April 30, the Westchester County Board of Legislators will vote on a “Clinic Access Bill”.  This kind of legislation is a persistent feature of pro-abortion advocacy.  It is designed to chill the free speech and assembly rights of pro-lifers who pray and witness outside of abortion clinics.  Since the pro-abortion forces can’t bear the possibility that women might choose against abortion, they aim to silence us by passing vague laws that are designed to intimidate pro-lifers into silence out of fear of arbitrary prosecution and punitive lawsuits.

    The Archdiocese issued a strong statement against this bill last fall.  Many pro-lifers and lovers of freedom will attend the Board hearing on Monday, to urge the legislators not to give in to the well-funded pressure from the abortion industry.  I will attend too, and deliver the following remarks.  Please pray for us.

    My name is Edward Mechmann. I am the Assistant Director of the Family Life/Respect Life Office of the Archdiocese of New York, and a resident of Westchester County.  I submit this statement in opposition to the proposed legislation concerning access to so-called “reproductive health care facilities”.

    First, the proposed changes to the law are unnecessary.  There is no evidence that there is a substantial problem that needs to be addressed by this bill.  According to statistics provided by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, there has been only one arrest in the entire state since 2000 for violations of the State clinic access law, and no criminal convictions. There is no need to strengthen laws that are never used, since there is no problem that needs to be addressed.

    The second reason for our opposition to this bill is that  it is unconstitutionally overbroad and vague.  It is a established principle of constitutional law that any attempted regulation of speech be content-neutral, and narrowly tailored to meet a compelling state interest.  This is particularly true when the speech occurs on a public sidewalk, which has been described by the Supreme Court as a “public forum” where citizens generally have a First Amendment right to speak and gather together.  This bill fails to satisfy this standard, and creates a significant risk that people would be prosecuted or sued for the mere exercise of their right to free speech and assembly.

    This bill is not neutral, because it specifically targets the conduct and speech of those who oppose abortion.  It is also vague and ambiguous, so that persons could not possibly know what kinds of behavior or speech are prohibited.  One of the provisions would make it a crime to “interfere” with the operations of “reproductive health care facilities”.  Yet that term is undefined and utterly subjective in meaning, and would thus chill the free speech and assembly rights of those who wish to speak to women seeking to enter those facilities.

    Another provision of the bill would create a protected zone that includes “any public parking lot” within 200 feet of the clinic, as long as it “serves” the clinic. These terms are undefined and hopelessly ambiguous.  For example, what does it mean for a parking lot to “serve” a clinic, and how can that be determined?  There is no test clearly defined in the statute.  The result will inevitably be arbitrary and selective enforcement, and the chilling of free speech and assembly rights.

    This unnecessary bill is clearly aimed at suppressing the rights of those who oppose abortion, because that speech is disfavored by the owners and operators of abortion businesses.  This discriminatory legislation dishonors the constitutional rights of pro-life citizens, and robs women of an opportunity to hear the truth about abortion.

    It should be rejected.