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January 30, 2019 - 12:43pm

Jankowski to urge City Council to address NY abortion law letter issue at its next meeting

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

Numerous letters, phone calls, social media postings and comments on The Batavian concerning the possibility of Batavia City Council drafting a letter opposing New York State’s new abortion law have led Batavia City Council President Eugene Jankowski to request that the board move a bit quicker than usual to deal with the issue.

“I’ve received an overwhelming amount of feedback about this with many people concerned that we took a knee-jerk reaction to the speaker’s views,” Jankowski said today. “I think it is best that we address it at our next Business meeting on February 11th to let people calm down and have their say.”

The state’s Reproductive Health Act (Senate bill no. S2796), which was passed last week, became a topic of discussion at Monday’s City Council meeting when city resident Chris Connelly, buoyed by his religious beliefs, requested that the board take action against what he termed as an expansion of “America’s holocaust.”

Language of the bill is as follows:

“An act to amend the public health law, in relation to enacting the reproductive health act and revising existing provisions of law regarding abortion; to amend the penal law, the criminal procedure law, the county law and the judiciary law, in relation to abortion; to repeal certain provisions of the public health law relating to abortion; to repeal certain provisions of the education law relating to the sale of contraceptives; and to repeal certain provisions of the penal law relating to abortion.”

The law continues access to abortions and, by removing abortions from the state’s criminal code, it protects doctors or certified medical professionals who perform abortions from criminal prosecution.

It also permits medical professionals who are not doctors to perform abortions in New York, and stipulates that abortions can be performed after 24 weeks if the fetus is not viable or when necessary to protect the life of the mother.

Connelly’s comments prompted Council member Rose Mary Christian to call for something along the lines of Batavia becoming a “sanctuary city” for the unborn. Following discussion with Jankowski and City Manager Martin Moore, her idea was steered toward the drafting of a letter from City Council in opposition of the law to be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Moore and Jankowski both agreed that they would give it some time to consider public feedback to ensure that the wording was proper, with an eye on discussing it again at Council’s next Conference meeting on Feb. 25.

Since then, however, Jankowski said he has seen the feedback and talked to many people, and he feels that it is best to address it sooner.

Jankowski also is of the mindset that it isn’t a priority of the local governing body.

“The majority of the public thinks that we are overstepping our boundaries,” he said. “My recommendation will be to listen to the feedback, stay out of national and state debates and stick with local issues.”

Jankowski posted a long response to many comments from readers of The Batavian following its coverage of Monday’s meeting. He said he has forwarded that to his colleagues on City Council.

An excerpt of his post contends that a letter from City Council – either for or against the law – wouldn’t reflect the wishes of the entire community:

“I personally believe that City Council writing a letter of either approval or disapproval of the abortion law changes at this time will alienate half of the community on either side and it wouldn't represent a clear direction or a consensus.

“Therefore, my intentions are to revisit the letter request under old business at the next available council meeting which is the February 11th Business meeting. I will recommend Council withdraw the request to write a letter to the Governor and suggest Council stay focused on local issues. Council as a group will then be able to make a final decision on how to proceed.”

When asked whether he would reprimand Christian for disparaging comments she made about Gov. Cuomo (as was suggested in a particular comment on The Batavian), Jankowski said in his role as the “ceremonial head” of City Council, he doesn’t have that authority.

“That’s on her,” he said. “I’m not taking responsibility to babysit her. She’s an adult and can take care of herself. But I don’t agree with any name calling and I have spoken out against that in the past.”

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