On Tuesday, I appeared as a witness at the hearing held by the Women’s Issues Committee of the New York City Council. The committee was supposed to be taking evidence and evaluating the merits of Intro 371, the unfair and discriminatory bill that would regulate pregnancy resource centers. (For more information about the bill, click here)
In reality, the “hearing” was little more than a demonstration of what happens when ideological obsession, duplicity, and raw political power intersect.
The tone for the day was set at the beginning, when the lead sponsor of the bill declared that it was all about “truth in advertising”. She and other sponsors of the bill went on to slander the centers by falsely alleging that their entire purpose was to mislead pregnant women into believing that they are medical centers, in order to deny them “the full range of reproductive health services.”
Yet there was no evidence about any false statements in any advertising, and, in fact, neither the Council nor any public agency had ever conducted an inquiry into the content of the centers’ advertising. There was no evidence that any woman had been misled or harmed in any way by visiting the centers. There was no evidence that any center had ever held itself out to be a medical facility. There was no evidence that any of the centers had ever revealed any private information.
No evidence. None.
If this were a courtroom, the case for the bill would have been laughed at and summarily dismissed.
All that was offered in support of this bill were the bald allegations by the real sponsors of the bill — NARAL, Planned Parenthood, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and the hive of radical pro-abortion advocates — about how the centers allegedly misrepresent themselves to be medical facilities. This was their entire “case”, together with a blindness to the scientific and clinical evidence of negative side effects of abortion (including an increased risk of breast cancer, and post-abortion trauma), and imaginary allegations of deception (including the laughable statement by a NYCLU staff member that the mere name of one of the centers, “EMC”, sounded to her like a medical office). Underlying it all was the bizarre attitude by the sponsors that the only way to prevent abuses that have never occurred is to drag private citizens under the power of government regulation.
To give you an idea of the absurdity of the hearing, the first witnesses were from two New York City Government agencies. They gave official support to the bill, even though neither agency had regulatory authority over the centers, neither had ever conducted an investigation into the centers or had received any complaints about them, and they openly professed ignorance about what the centers did. In fact, the representative of the Health Department was so woefully unprepared that she didn’t even know how many abortions take place in New York City every year. (Psst. Health Department? It’s about 89,000. All you have to do is look at the report your own department puts out. You can do it — it’s not that hard.)
Here’s another indication of the ideological blindness of the committee, and their lack of genuine concern for women’s health. I testified about the provisions of the bill that would require the centers to keep client information confidential. This provision would prevent the centers from notifying the authorities if they had reason to believe that a teenager had been sexually abused or raped. The reaction by the sponsors when they learned that their bill would shield rapists and child abusers? Silence. After all, why let facts get in the way of ideology and lust for power?
There were some bright spots in the hearing. Many pro-lifers sat for hours in a hot, crowded room to give witness to the wonderful work being done by these centers. One Councilmember, Daniel Halloran, was prepared for the hearing and asked intelligent, searching and even-handed questions. Stalwart defenders of life like Chris Slattery, Chris Bell, and Teresa Bonapartis put the lie to the Council’s prejudices against the centers and demonstrated what true concern for women was like. Excellent lawyers from national organizations, like the American Center for Law and Justice, gave learned testimony about how the bill would violate the free speech rights of the centers and their staffs.
Not that the Committee members cared about our side of the bill. In most cases, they didn’t even bother to disguise their disinterest and disdain for the pro-life witnesses, rudely chatting among themselves and with staff instead of paying attention. And they called it a “hearing”.
The Committee will now take the bill under consideration, and may vote on it as early as this December, with action by the full Council to follow. All citizens who care about free speech and the defense of life should contact the Council to let them know what they think of this prejudiced, ideological power-grab of a bill.