First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Rally for Life at Bronx Courthouse Draws Attention
Maria R. Bastone
FOR LOVE OF LIFE—Sham Ninah, executive director of the New York Metropolitan Clergy for Better Choices, defends the unborn at a pro-life rally April 23 outside the Bronx Supreme Court.

The Reproductive Health Act, the anticipated New York abortion expansion bill, provided both an invisible and blinding backdrop at the Public Witness for Life, a rally in defense of “a real woman’s agenda,” held from the steps outside the Bronx Supreme Court April 23.

The bill, which would codify abortion in state law and prevent state regulations on abortion, is “not good for women,” nor for New York, said Edward Mechmann, coordinator for public policy and assistant director of the archdiocese’s Family Life/Respect Life Office.

Mechmann and other representatives of the archdiocese were among a number of speakers and participants, including representation from ecumenical leadership, who stood up for life at the rally.

Approximately 75 pro-life advocates flanked the eight presenters, who included Barbara Meara, chairperson of the Bronx Right to Life and New York State Right to Life committees, and Sham Ninah, executive director of the New York Metropolitan Clergy for Better Choices, at the 6:30 p.m. forum. Cynthia Martinez, associate director of the archdiocese’s Office of Youth Ministry, delivered her remarks in English and Spanish, as did Dr. Maximo D'Oleo, a Catholic pediatrician in Washington Heights. Domenick Canale, co-founder of Catholic Pulse and member of Catholic Voices, also delivered remarks. Maria Lewis, Respect Life coordinator at St. Joseph’s parish in Yonkers, provided the opening prayer; Father Agustino Torres, C.F.R., director of evangelization for the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, gave the closing remarks and closing prayer in English and Spanish. Welcoming all and serving as the emcee was Daniela Adames, assistant coordinator for Spanish programs in the Family Life/Respect Life Office.

Also attending were contingents of the Sisters of Life and the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal.

The demonstration caught the attention of a multitude of passersby. That was the intent, as the event was timed to coincide with the schedules of the after-work crowd, who were either heading home or en route to dinner at nearby restaurants.

Mechmann described as “a prayerful group” the Bronx rally demonstrators who defended life while bearing thought-provoking posters and placards. “It was really just a great opportunity for regular people to get out there in a public place and let the world know that we’re very much opposed to the expansion of abortion.”

The location, Mechmann said, was ideal, since the courthouse is situated on a busy street that bustles with “a lot of pedestrian traffic, a lot of vehicular traffic.”

Many of the passersby let the participants know, through gestures of affirmation, that they were of like mind. “We had a lot of honking horns, including a fire engine,” Mechmann said.

Literature distributed to the public was also graciously received, according to Mechmann. “From what I observed, everybody was stopping, they were listening, they were taking the literature,” he said. “People were interested in what we were doing. It seemed to me to be a positive reaction by the passersby.”

Both the speakers and the signs they held proclaimed “that we’re really interested in a genuine agenda that is supportive of women,” Mechmann said.

Collectively, they addressed the need for better prenatal care, support for childbearing and adoption laws. “Abortion,” he said, “just hurts people.”

Mechmann, who grew up in the Bronx, also shared staggering statistics for the people of that borough. The abortion rate there, he said, is about 50 percent, meaning half the pregnancies end by abortion. Some neighborhoods within the borough have even higher rates, he added. “The abortion rate in the Bronx is just horrible.”

Women in the Bronx, as with women everywhere, “need real choices,” Mechmann said. “They don’t need to think that the only choice they have is to go to the abortion clinic.”

It’s up to pro-life advocates to remind them of the alternatives, he added. “If we’re going to do anything in public policy, we need to show more support and more compassion for the men and women who are in a difficult situation because of a pregnancy. And then we, the community, also need to rally behind the men and women who have been hurt and wounded in the aftermath of an abortion, to show compassion and help for them as well.”

In a Jan. 9 letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Cardinal Dolan stated his disapproval of the Reproductive Health Act, calling it a “radical” bill in a state where the abortion rate is already “double the national average.”

Mechmann said, “It really is between now and the beginning of June that big decisions are going to be made, and we will hopefully see real bill language from the governor’s office. That will be the triggering event, then, for the legislature really to take this thing seriously. There is momentum building for a bill to move forward. The governor has been talking about it, the advocacy groups have been talking about it.”

Mechmann points people to the New York State Catholic Conference website,, for more information about the Reproductive Health Act. The site features a user-friendly advocacy center to communicate with legislators through e-mail, as well as links to other organizations that are working on the issue in defense of life, and more.

A silent protest of abortion, a candlelight vigil for life, was held April 29 at the Village Square in Goshen, Orange County, and April 15 at West Capitol Park in Albany.


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