Friday, February 8, 2019

Offering alternatives to abortion


It’s been a tough year for the pro-life movement and we’re only 7 weeks into 2019.

First, New York passed legislation codifying abortion rights on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, permitting abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy given certain circumstances related to health of the baby or the mother. The law also allows physician assistants to perform some abortions and moves the subject of abortion from the penal code to health statutes.

Then, in Virginia, delegate Kathy Tran introduced a bill with the backing of her Democratic peers that would loosen restrictions on abortion in the final trimester. Late-term abortions would be allowed under nebulous language that says the birth could “impair the mental or physical health of the woman”.

This, of course, has angered pro-lifers and even a good many pro-choicers who view this as going too far.

This has led to the usual debate – or more accurately lack of debate -- about all things abortion: It’s bad (which I believe it is) and we shouldn’t be giving federal funds to Planned Parenthood (which I believe we shouldn’t).

Neither of those arguments have won a fight and -- looking at the make-up of New York’s newfangled legislature as well as a President who’s happy enough to only issue a limit on abortions after 20 weeks – they won’t.  

So, I’m here to offer some advice to my fellow pro-lifers: Until the worldviews of the elected change, which isn’t anytime soon, change your tactics and go into action. If you truly value life and want to see it flourish, screaming at the sky won’t work. Step up your game and offer alternatives to death. Focus on saving the lives that could be impacted by abortion.

To do that you must offer, empower, and promote alternatives to abortion because the issues that lead to abortions are real.

It’s silly to think that those getting abortions are repeat customers, loose women (and the callous men who impregnate them) or gals who are inherently evil and enjoy smiting life. Most of the time, the person seeking an abortion is a woman who is absolutely scared to death after having made a mistake in judgement. It could be a high schooler, a young lady in college, a thirty-something professional…someone who, from maybe one moment of indiscretion or a missed pill, has had something happen to her that shakes up her world. Ask anyone who’s a parent…child-rearing changes your life, dramatically, and in a hurry. Not everyone is prepared for that. It can be pretty darn overwhelming.

We have to help these women be prepared for that experience and alleviate their fears – whether their fears are based on the physical, mental, emotional, or financial. They need guidance on protecting that life within them, keeping their life and mind intact, and becoming a parent or finding a home for their baby. They need people who care enough to lead them away from the path to abortion and give them the tools and resources to succeed (or least try hard at succeeding).

Such organizations are out there ready, willing, and able to serve our neighborhoods and help these young ladies in trying times, all while ensuring our world is blessed with the birth of a child. My column serves the urban centers of Lockport, Niagara Falls, and Batavia; let’s take a look at the pro-life pregnancy centers within those places.

Lockport is home to Lockport CareNet at 229 East Ave. (LockportCareNet.com). The volunteer-driven non-profit has been in operation since 1985. They provide free ultrasounds, give parenting workshops to moms and dads alike, donate material aid like baby supplies, initiate community referrals for financial and medical aid, conduct adoption referrals, and provide loving support. I so value what they do for my community that they are on my year-end giving list every year.

Niagara Falls has the pro-life Summit Life Outreach Center at 1622 Pine Ave. (SummitLifeCenter.com). They do the same things as Lockport CareNet but they also highlight their abortion recovery services. While they don’t do or refer abortions, they know that some women not originally under their care do have them and suffer stress, guilt, and emotional pain afterwards. They give those women the support, love, and help they need in those dark days.

Batavia has All Babies Cherished at 445 Ellicott St. (AllBabiesCherished.com). Their services include education, support, and advocacy during pregnancy, but they also tout their support of young families right through the third year of life. That’s pretty special – they know that parenting and life are long-term commitments and support should linger until the moms and dads are truly comfortable on their own. 

I encourage all pro-lifers to support these organizations or similar ones within their communities. Give them your money and time. Donate baby supplies to them. Refer women in need to them. By getting involved, then and only then can we end abortion, one victory at a time…baby steps.   


From the 11 February 2019 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

Saturday, February 2, 2019

New York’s red flag bill raises red flags

Last week, the New York Senate and Assembly passed four bills focused on gun control that Governor Cuomo is expected to sign into law, maybe as soon as this week.

Among them was the so-called red flag bill which, per the Senate’s synopsis, “establishes extreme risk protection orders as a court-issued order of protection prohibiting a person from purchasing, possessing or attempting to purchase or possess a firearm, rifle or shotgun.”

The bill allows family members, school administrators and their designees (teachers, counselors, nurses) to petition a court and then prove that the allegedly-dangerous party is likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to self or others. Police officers were included in the list of petitioners, but they’ve always possessed the ability to petition the court given they dotted the “i”s and crossed the “t”s…which they, and any of the other parties, would not have to do under this bill.

For anyone who values personal liberty, due process, and the importance of just law enforcement, this should raise some serious red flags.

Despite what the lawmakers might want you to believe, families and school officials, just like every citizen, have always had the ability to address threats. It’s simple: see something, say something, call the cops. Our Sheriffs, their deputies, and their investigators are empowered to investigate, identify, and mitigate threats. It’s their job, their calling. They’ve been trained in these matters and they have the resources and wherewithal to follow through on them and assume the risk that comes from it while making sure it’s done in a manner that protects the rights and safety of all parties involved as well as those of the greater community.

Despite that, under the red flag bill regular citizens can and are encouraged to circumvent the local police and directly engage the courts. The state is enabling those who know nothing of proper policing of public safety to propose to the court that someone is a danger. The individuals making these accusations need only to provide the court a compelling reason that probable cause exists -- without the actual hard evidence that would have been collected by police.

This opens the door to so many misinterpretations -- if not purposeful abuses -- of fact. Teachers aren’t criminal investigators; now we want them to add that skill set, with a lack of appropriate training, to their large list of responsibilities? Some folks are inherently fearful of gun ownership; so who’s to say that the very presence of safely-held and safely-used guns in a household isn’t perceived as a threat to them? Many people hold vendettas; what’s preventing an angry ex-wife or a combative school board member from petitioning the courts to remove guns from one’s home?

If any of those individuals do follow through with a petition the respondent is not granted due process – not an investigation and not even a proper and full defense because it’s a hearing-based system. He can’t even have his accuser investigated for potential fabrication. All initial power is granted to the petitioner. The respondent -- now guilty before proven innocent -- can pursue an appeal, but as anyone familiar with the judicial systems knows that’s a time-consuming process that can take months, even years.

Additionally, the respondent is entitled to submit one request – just one -- at any time during the effective period of an extreme risk protection order, for a hearing at which said respondent bears the burden to prove, by clear and convincing evidence, any change of circumstances that may justify a change to the order. How can the respondent disprove accusations that never had a legitimate investigation in the first place and could have been founded upon lies?

In either case, the guns have already been removed from that person’s possession without due process -- guns that are a constitutionally-recognized right, firearms that may have been necessary for personal protection and/or putting meat on the table.

The red flag bill, despite its alleged purpose, is also disingenuous in its urgency. The whole process for the petitioner and court is allowed a 3 to 6 day window in which to take place. If the alleged gun nut was such a danger to society, then why not address the threat that very day? A lot can happen over a few days if someone is actually unhinged.

This takes us back to square one. If an individual is a genuine threat, if red flags are going up, get the police involved. They can address the potential threat immediately and properly. And, by doing so, they can initiate a more appropriate investigation and the accompanying legal review, trials, and due process.

We already have the legal framework in place to address red flags. Let’s use that before the jumping headfirst into the Legislature’s bill. Public safety and personal liberty will be better served.


From the 04 February 2019 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

Friday, January 25, 2019

Plot to destroy upstate Mosque shows islamophobia is alive and well


Because of the “see something, say something” diligence of students at Greece Odyssey Academy in Monroe County a dastardly plot was uncovered by Greece Police. They discovered that 4 young men, ages 16 to 20, were planning to attack a Muslim community in Delaware County. During the investigation, police found that the men were deadly serious and in possession of 3 homemade explosive devices and 23 firearms.

The fact that this level of hate, which nearly manifested itself in violence, could be found in Greece – which not long ago was chosen as one of the safest places in America – proves that hate can be found anywhere. Anywhere.
   
Need further proof of that? Just take a cursory glance of Facebook and Twitter; how many articles, posts, comments, and memes have you seen identifying Islam as a religion of hate or calling for the elimination – and even execution – of Muslims? Sure, a majority of Americans are understanding of other faiths, but the haters are out there, and in fairly good numbers.

And people wonder where those deranged young men got their worldviews. They’re only mirroring the behavior of the adults they look up to.

All of those Islamophobes tend to paint the religion with a wide brush-stroke that makes all Muslims seem evil. Rather than attributing the work of ISIS and other militant groups --- which are incredibly small in numbers but large in impact – to a very small minority of morally-bankrupt practitioners of Islam, it’s popular to blame them all.

While many terrorists may claim to be Muslims, almost all Muslims are not terrorists. Most Muslims are like most Christians – inherently good people, believing in a peace, who try to live up to standards of morality amidst their own personal flaws. In short, they are humans as you and I are trying to be perfect in an imperfect world.

An Orleans County couple whom I admire are devout Muslims. Their love of Man far rivals that which I have seen from most Christians. They devote countless hours and dollars to improving the lot of life for the impoverished in that deeply-poor county as well as directly helping children from oppressed nations throughout the world. Their sacrifices and commitments are truly something special.

Their peers in faith are equally adept at practicing charity. One study found that Muslims were the most generous of all religious groups, contributing 38% more than Jews, 84% more than Protestants, more than twice what Catholics do, and more than 3 times what atheists give.

Those statistics magnificently show that Islam is a religion of peace, of love, of hope.

Many non-Muslims choose to believe otherwise, implying that terror organizations represent the mainstream of the religion and that it is a deadly, vindictive faith. While having never picked up the Quaran, they are quick to spout random quotes from Muhammad that say Islam must convert all non-believers and tax and/or kill those who don’t convert.

If other religions practiced such selectivity and total lack of historical context, Christians would be looked as murderous war mongers, too. After all, the God of the Old Testament had the Israelites wipe out and destroy Jericho, Heshbon, Bahsan and numerous other places, purposely killing women and children while doing so because non-believers and those associated with them needed punishment. That’s a heavy body count, one that is overlooked today due to the more just people and kinder God of the New Testament.

It’s silly to classify Christianity as evil and violent because of those bloodbaths (and those done in its name in the days after the Bible), just as it is to do the same to all of Islam. Muslim-hating Christians need to look in the mirror – and read their own doctrines – before pointing an accusatory finger at other religions. What did Jesus say about the first stone?

A lack of understanding and compassion, which leads down the path of hate, is no way to treat your fellow man, no matter what religion he practices.  

That hate almost led to the death of what could have been dozens of peaceful Muslims – men, women, and children -- right here in our own home state. While it would have been the men who pulled the trigger being guilty, the practitioners of Islamophobia would have had blood on their hands, too, because it was their spirited verbal and written attacks which inspired the impressionable young men to commit their bloodbath. 

This should serve as a wake-up call. Islamophobia is an ugly disease and one that unlike disdain for skin color or sexual orientation is often left unchecked. It’s allowed to be expressed in the open and very few stand up against it. We can’t let that happen anymore, anywhere. Bring an end to the hate, because it can become a deadly disease.


From the 28 January 2019 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News