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February 25, 2019 - 10:53pm

Council says no to Christian's resolution opposing NY's Reproductive Health Act after impassioned public session

posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Batavia City Council, Reproductive Health Act.

The Batavia City Council tonight – after a second emotion-filled 90-minute public comment session at the outset of its monthly Conference meeting -- decided by an 8-1 vote not to consider a resolution drafted by Council Member Rose Mary Christian opposing the recently passed New York Reproductive Health Act.

Christian cast the only vote to move the resolution to the board’s next Business meeting, much to the chagrin of the overwhelming majority of the 125 people in attendance at the City Hall Council chambers.

The resolution, if it had been forwarded and eventually passed, would have then been sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, the Supreme Court of the United States and “all others deemed necessary and proper.”

Passed into state law in January, the Reproductive Health Act: removes abortion from the state's criminal code; allows for medical professionals other than doctors to perform abortions; and legalizes abortion after 24 weeks in cases where it would protect a woman's health or where a fetus is not viable. Previously, state law allowed abortions after 24 weeks only if the woman's life was at risk.

Seventeen people – 11 of them from Batavia – spoke on the issue, with 15 in favor of Council sending the letter and/or making Batavia “a sanctuary city for the unborn” and two expressing the opinion that the Council, as a local governing entity, should not be compelled to weigh in on such a polarizing debate.

Several pro-life speakers invoked Biblical passages and stern warnings of God’s judgment upon Council members while others focused on the premise that life begins at conception and that abortion is murder.

Tonight’s turnout was slightly less than the Council meeting of Feb. 11, where about 200 people turned out and 18 people spoke (with 14 in favor of the letter and four against it).

Council President Eugene Jankowski -- after hearing impassioned speeches on both sides of the issue and dousing a brief shouting match following the public comment session between Christian and Batavia resident Diana Kastenbaum, who was against the resolution – addressed the audience by stating it was his responsibility to represent the entire city and noted that the city was divided.

“It would be no difference if pro-choice people came to us and asked us to write a letter (supporting the RHA),” Jankowski said.

His words were quickly followed by someone who yelled out “coward” from the audience.

“So you don’t agree with somebody, you’re a racist or a coward,” Jankowski responded, adding that he wrote his own letter. “Packing the council room is not an indication that a majority (is in favor of the resolution).”

Council Member John Canale said he is “absolutely” opposed to the law and called it an “atrocity,” but agreed with Jankowski that it wouldn’t be prudent to send a letter that represents the entire city.

“Do we send the letter? My feelings are the same as yours, Geno,” he said. “If the pro-choice said to send a letter saying the City of Batavia and its residents support it (the law), I would be upset as well as most of the people in this room. I will write a letter as a citizen (of Batavia, not as a council member).”

Christian then said Canale “was correct in a lot of what you said except,” circling back to her convictions when it comes to abortion, “you are not standing up for the unborn.”

To which, Jankowski said there is a better way to proceed – “as individuals we have more power.”

Moments later, when Jankowski asked for his colleagues to publicly state whether to move the resolution forward to the March 11 Business meeting, and only Christian said yes, Batavian Kathy Stefani, one of the last speakers, shouted “I’m ashamed of every one of you” as she walked out of the room.

It wasn’t much longer before the rest of the pro-life crowd filed out of the meeting, visibly upset and dejected.

(Another story, featuring some of the speakers’ comments, will be filed on Tuesday).

Sammy DiSalvo
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I'm disappointed I missed this meeting but was sick. I appreciate Jankowski's statement: “Packing the council room is not an indication that a majority (is in favor of the resolution).” He is correct and I think CC made the correct decision to act as individual citizens rather than as a government board.

I'm disappointed that a shouting match was incited over this and that a councilperson couldn't let the public speak without arguing with them. If I am wrong in that the councilperson shouted first, please correct me.

Christopher Putnam
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Joined: Oct 11 2012 - 1:05pm

Awwww...are you sad and dejected that you cannot force your moral beliefs onto others? Good.
Many thanks and applause to the Council, for doing what they are supposed to do. Manage the city, and nothing else.

Dear 125 people that seek to force your moral beliefs on others, mind YOUR business. We are not seeking to impose OUR beliefs on YOU.
Maybe we should pass a resolution that everyone should smoke weed, because I believe that everyone needs to CHILL the f out. haha

Daniel Norstrand
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Joined: Jul 18 2016 - 10:27am

The US senate just voted down the "survivor act." So killing the live baby who is strong enough to survive being wrenched from the womb stays legal. Next it'll be ok to kill "stupid." But then I guess that would eventually do away with abortion. Hmmm.

Rich Richmond
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Joined: Mar 29 2011 - 4:50pm

I attended this mentioned Council meeting. The public did have their chance to speak without interruption during the public comment. Both sides Pro-Life and Pro-Choice were respectful to one another during the public comment portion of the Meeting.

Council President Jankowski saw to that. It was no easy task given the passion from both sides of the issue.

Councilperson Rose Mary Christian instigated the shouting match with the Pro-Choice people, during the Council’s response to public comments. Council President Jankowski defused her unwarranted and disrespectful outburst and restored order.

The other eight Councilpersons were professional and respectful to speakers on both sides of the issue when they spoke.

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