This from the Brooklyn Tablet:
Msgr. Reilly said that the members of the Council, after they heard their testimony, said “that they respected and admired the great work that we do, and that this amendment would not affect the Helpers. But the problem is that this will allow somebody without evidence to make an accusation against a sidewalk counselor. The biggest thing is that this is not necessary, because we aren’t breaking the law. If the law is being broken, then yes, increase the penalties. But we are not breaking the law.”
In a statement by Quinn, she said that the legislation “will ease the burden of proof
currently required in order to prosecute harassers.” The current local law requires prosecutors to “prove that a defendant intended to prevent someone from obtaining or assisting in reproductive health services.” Under this bill, proof of such intent would no longer be required for prosecution. Additionally, either a clinic or a patient will be able to file a harassment complaint. Currently, only an individual’s complaints about such behavior can be prosecuted.
“This would strip away the freedom of speech person-to-person at NYC abortion clinics,
prevent literature handouts, and personal communication, and strip away key First Amendment rights from people who want to offer help to women in crisis pregnancy,” Slattery said.
In an e-mail sent by both Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Cardinal Edward Egan to parishioners in their respective dioceses, it stated that “this bill will lead to unfair prosecutions of ordinary citizens who wish to express their free speech rights, and will be subject to criminal and civil penalties merely because some influential groups consider their speech to be unwelcome. Ultimately, the Clinic Access Bill is unfair to women, who have a right to information before they make the decision on whether or not to have an abortion.”
The NYC Council will hold a second public hearing before the law is voted on, which could come on Dec. 9. Pro-life advocates are encouraging everyone to contact their City Council members and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports the new legislation, to express opposition to the bill. To find the name of your City Council representative, go to http://council.nyc.gov and click on Council Members. You can also e-mail Mayor Bloomberg at http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/mayor.html.