New York Council Committee Considers Fresh Attack on Pro-Life Free Speech
WASHINGTON, Nov. 18 /Christian Newswire/ -- The New York city council's civil rights committee will hold a public hearing today over a proposed measure designed to create 15-foot buffer zones around the city's abortion facilities in an attempt to restrict peaceful opposition to these centers. According to David Bereit, national campaign director of 40 Days for Life, "This proposal is an outright attack on both freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. While this bill is likely to be passed out of committee, we are optimistic that reasonable New Yorkers will not stand for this infringement of constitutional guarantees and will urge their council members to reject it."
The draconian proposal, backed by major abortion organizations, would also permit clinics to file harassment charges against anyone within the 15- foot area without having to prove intent.
"Since 27 of the council's 50 members are currently co-sponsoring the measure, passage would appear to be imminent. However we are confident these council members will listen to the people they are supposed to be serving," said Bereit. "Even if council members disagree on the fundamental right to life, surely they understand that the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free assembly must be respected and protected. We are urging all pro-life and pro-freedom New Yorkers to contact their council members to express concern about this clearly unconstitutional measure."
On the first day of the fall 40 Days for Life campaign, New York city council speaker Christine Quinn announced the proposal at a at a news conference that included representatives of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the New York Civil Liberties Union and Dr. Emily's Women's Health Center - an abortion corporation whose Bronx location was the site of a 40 Days for Life prayer vigil.
The measure appears to target, among others, Chris Slattery, who directed 40 Days for Life campaigns in the Bronx and Queens and has a history of effective pro-life activism as president of Expectant Mother Care-EMC FrontLine Pregnancy Centers. Slattery will join many other pro-lifers opposing the measure at today's council hearings. Also expected to testify are mothers who chose life for their babies after being counseled on the sidewalk in front of abortion facilities.
"This legislation is clearly intended to harass and intimidate peaceful people who are often simply standing and praying; when they do speak to women outside the facilities, they're not 'harassing' anyone, they are offering alternatives and help in a time of need," said Bereit.
"The bottom line is, street counselors who lovingly reach out to women in crisis pregnancies cut in to the abortion businesses," said Slattery. "People are drawn to the truth and because of this counselors oftentimes peacefully dissuade abortion patients from entering these clinics by offering free help, education, medical care and housing."
Slattery says he is most concerned about the way the proposed legislation would be enforced. "We intend to fight this measure if and when it begins to infringe upon our rights," he said. "We have already begun assembling a legal team and activist support network to stand up against this unfair, biased and blatantly unconstitutional bill," he said.
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