Letters to the editor are an important advocacy tool. In addition to educating the public and the news media, elected officials pay attention to Letters Page conversations in their local papers to get a pulse on their constituents’ opinions on controversial issues. Below are 10 tips for effective letter writing, and some sample letters below that are intended solely as examples, rather than to be used exactly.
1. To be considered for publication, a letter to the editor should be a total length of between 100 and 200 words. You can check the specific requirements of any individual paper.
2. Always include your name, address and a daytime telephone number. Many news outlets call the letter-writer for verification.
3. It is best to email your letter to the editor, and place the content of your letter in the body of the email; do not send the letter as an attachment to your email.
4. Be respectful. Never use inflammatory language.
5. A letter is more likely to be published if the topic is tied to a recent news story or event. Keep your eyes on the news: if the legislature is considering new laws to benefit women, a letter about how the new abortion law harms women would be appropriate. If there’s a story about a new safety device for newborn babies, a letter about the harm to infants from the abortion law would fit in nicely
6. Know the facts. See our fact sheet about the new law. Don’t exaggerate or overstate the law. Just state the facts. The truth is powerful.
7. Stick with one main issue or point. Don’t try to include all the flaws in the Reproductive Health Act in one letter. Pick one topic and stay there. Keep it simple and understandable.
8 Use your own words. While we offer sample letters to the editor, it is always best to put the letter in your own words. A person’s passion and true feelings come through most effectively when they use their own heartfelt words.
9. You can use the Action Center on this website to send letters to editors easily and efficiently. Here’s how: Go to the “Take Action!” tab in the main menu above and click on Contact Local Media. Enter your home zip code and then your address. The system will display for you a directory of your federal officials, your state officials, and your local media (make sure to scroll down). Check off the news outlet to whom you’d like to send your letter, then hit the tab at the bottom that says “Compose Message.” Just enter your subject and write your letter in the space marked “Message Body.” Be sure to include your phone number at the end of your message, because many news outlets will not publish a letter without a phone number included for verification. Review your mailing address and click “Send Message.” It’s that simple!
10. Know that each time a letter is published, a seed is planted. The Letters section is one of the most widely read parts of most newspapers. It offers a free platform to reach a broad audience. Use it to provide readers with useful information and a call to take action.
Sample letters to the editor
TOPIC 1: THE NUMBER OF LATE-TERM ABORTIONS
I am shocked and saddened that Governor Cuomo and Democratic lawmakers have passed a new and even more liberal abortion law than New York State already had. Supporters say that late-term abortions occur very rarely, but that’s not really true.
The most recent New York State Health Department statistics show that in 2016, 1,763 abortions were performed at 20 weeks of pregnancy or more. That doesn’t sound very rare to me. These are fully formed babies in the womb who can be legally destroyed by abortion. These are not “clumps of cells” or merely “parts of the woman’s body.” These are innocent infants, dozing, kicking and sucking their thumbs. And even if those infants have a genetic disease or a prenatal abnormality, they deserve the right to be born and to die a natural death. They do not deserve a violent death by abortion.
Now that the state legislature has given permission to late-term abortionists to come in to New York to practice their trade, I fear that the number of abortions will go even higher.
TOPIC 2: THE “HEALTH” EXCEPTION
On January 22, the New York State Legislature passed and the governor signed the “Reproductive Health Act,” an extreme new law that will allow late-term abortions for virtually any reason. Here’s why.
The law adds a “health” exception to New York law, so that abortions are now legal in the final three months of a woman’s pregnancy if her “life or health” is endangered. Previously the law said that only if the mother’s “life” was in danger was a third trimester abortion legal.
The problem is that the word “health” has been interpreted by the US Supreme Court as including:
“… all factors – physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age – relevant to the well-being of the patient. All these factors may relate to health.” (See Doe vs. Bolton 1973)
The health exception allowing late-term abortions is a loophole big enough to drive a truck through. We should not be treating innocent human lives as if they were worthless and disposable for any reason. All life is precious.
TOPIC 3: INFANTICIDE
New York’s new abortion law went way beyond abortion. It legalized infanticide in the Empire State. It specifically removed a section of Public Health Law (Section 4164) that required medical attention and basic civil rights be given to any baby who accidentally survives an abortion.
For what possible reason could the governor and lawmakers have supported this change in our law? Don’t we owe these born, helpless, voiceless infants basic medical care and protection? This has nothing to do with the woman’s right to access abortion (she’s already done that) or with shutting down abortion clinics (clearly they are still out there). We are talking about denying care and compassion to a living breathing member of our human family!
I shudder to ask “what’s next”?
TOPIC 4: NEW YORK IS THE ABORTION DESTINATION
New York’s new “Reproductive Health Act” has made abortion in our state an untouchable “fundamental right.” There are virtually no regulations on abortion in New York, unlike most states, where lawmakers have required things like parental notification for minors’ abortions and placed restrictions on taxpayer funding of abortion. Now late-term abortions are available for practically any reason, and new regulations will be essentially impossible to enact. It is logical to assume that abortion will become a tourism business in New York, with women coming in from other states to destroy their unborn children. While other businesses flee the state, the abortion business will be booming. How sad.
TOPIC 5: NON-DOCTORS
I find it hard to believe, but New York’s new abortion law allows non-doctors to perform abortions. The law removed previous law that had required a “duly licensed physician” to perform abortion. In its place, the new law allows any “health care practitioner” who is “licensed, certified or authorized” and acting within their “scope of practice” to perform an abortion. This sounds to me like lesser trained and lesser experienced practitioners will be able to perform both early and late-term abortions. Does this include both surgical and non-surgical abortions? I heard lawmakers say they were passing this law for women, but how can this possibly be good for women’s health?
TOPIC 6: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
Moving abortion from the criminal laws to the health laws in our state has already had at least one horrifying consequence. In February there were at least two cases of crimes committed against pregnant mothers and their unborn children, but no charges can be brought for the death of the innocent infants. In Queens County, a mother was heinously butchered to death with a knife, and so was her unborn baby. No charges can be brought by prosecutors for the death of that baby. In Rockland County, a man plowed down a pregnant woman after an altercation at a convenience store, resulting in a murder charge for the death of the woman, and no charge for the death of her baby. That’s because there no longer is an “abortion” crime in New York.
This is unjust and wrong. It must be made right.
By Kathleen M. Gallagher
Like most people, I was glued to the news about the boys’ soccer team lost inside a cave in Thailand. I prayed every day, first, that they would be found, and once they were, that somehow they could be successfully rescued. I rejoiced when they emerged from that deep, dark, wet cavern into the sunlight, and thanked God for the resiliency of human life and the strength of the human spirit. The entire world was riveted because each of those human lives was a vulnerable, innocent, unrepeatable gift, and they were miraculously saved.
Perhaps unlike most people, I also thought about the vulnerability and innocence of unborn human lives. Like the camera that snaked way down into that crevice in the ground in southeast Asia, ultrasound technology has given us a window into the womb, where we can watch unborn infants sucking their thumbs, kicking their feet, even getting the hiccups. We know they are alive and growing in there because we can see them. More
By Kathleen M. Gallagher
The recent suicides of designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain highlight a deeply disturbing trend in the United States. Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reveals that suicides are climbing in the United States. The suicide rate went up more than 30% in half of the states around the country since 1999. In New York State, the increase was 29%. In just one year alone (2016) in the U.S., 45,000 lives were lost to suicide. It is now the tenth leading cause of death in the country. For certain this is a public health crisis.
And I can’t help but think about how the legalization of physician-assisted suicide in some states may be contributing to this crisis. There’s a thing called “suicide contagion,” and it’s real – exposure to, and acceptance of, suicide will increase the risk of suicide to others. Take Vermont, for example, which enacted doctor-assisted suicide in 2013; their suicide rate has jumped almost 49%.
I recommend this page from the CDC website, which offers all the statistics, plus excellent tips on preventing suicide. Among the tips are these, which I note with some irony:
- Promote safe and supportive environments. This includes safely storing medications…to reduce access among people at risk. But wait, physician-assisted suicide encourages terminally ill suicidal people to bring those very medications home with them!
- Teach coping and problem-solving skills to help people manage challenges with their…health or other concerns. Physician-assisted suicide tells patients with health problems the very opposite – they can’t manage, so give up, lose hope, end it all.
- Offer activities that bring people together so they feel connected and not alone. A policy of physician-assisted suicide abandons people and leaves them isolated and afraid. We need to engage with them and accompany them so they will not feel hopeless.
The same CDC website lists the 12 warning signs that someone might be at risk of suicide. The first one listed is “feeling like a burden,” one of the top reasons given by terminal patients for wanting life-ending drugs in those states which have legalized assisted suicide.
This isn’t rocket science. Suicide is suicide is suicide, and we should be working hard to reduce its incidence among all people, for any reason. And that includes terminally ill people who may feel devastated, depressed, alone, and burdensome. We need consistent messages about suicide prevention.
by Kathleen M. Gallagher
In a very revealing commentary published at jurist.org last month, long-time assisted suicide advocate Kathryn Tucker admits that the so-called “safeguards” included in physician-assisted suicide proposals aren’t really safeguards at all. In fact, she calls them “burdens,” “restrictions,” and “barriers.” She thinks it’s unfortunate that these restrictions are included in the laws of Oregon and Vermont, and laments the fact that the recently-passed District of Columbia Act includes them as well.
Tucker says the safeguards “impose heavy governmental intrusion into the practice of medicine.” She points to Montana as the solution – there, the state’s high court allows doctor-assisted suicide without any safeguards at all; it’s all subject to a doctor’s judgment about the “best standard of care.”
Well, you have to give her points for honesty. It’s refreshing at least. For years now the proponents of these suicide bills have been selling them to state lawmakers with their promise of “strict safeguards” to ensure there is no abuse or coercion in the way the laws are carried out. In contrast, those of us who have opposed physician-assisted suicide have consistently argued that the so-called “safeguards” in these bills are a con — as Wesley Smith has cleverly noted, they are the “honey to help make the hemlock go down.”
New York State lawmakers should not be fooled. No strict “guidelines” or “safeguards” can prevent the financial pressures, mistaken diagnoses, subtle coercion and other dangers that will inevitably accompany a policy of legalized death-making.
by Kathleen M. Gallagher
On Monday, May 23, the members of the Assembly Health Committee voted to release a dangerous physician-assisted suicide bill, A.10059/S.7579. Many opponents of assisted suicide were deeply disappointed, even discouraged. And rightly so – it was a step in the wrong direction for our state.
But do not lose heart! There were actually some very encouraging signs in this vote. First and foremost, the bill got through the committee by only the narrowest of margins; just one more vote would have kept the bill in committee. That does not happen often in a committee that is purposefully stacked with anti-life votes.
Second, six Democratic members of the Assembly (yes, six!), five of whom are self-described “pro-choice” members, voted against the bill. Their votes demonstrate to their Democratic colleagues that this issue is not a liberal litmus test – one can be a self-described “progressive” and be deeply concerned about the vulnerable populations who will be harmed by this legislation. More than a few committee members – of both political parties — spoke of the unacceptable risks to the elderly, the isolated and people with disabilities that would come from legalizing assisted suicide.
Finally, the bill did not move to the Assembly floor for a vote; it was simply sent to another committee, the Assembly Codes Committee, and no votes have been scheduled there. Nor are any votes scheduled in any Senate committees. The 2016 State Legislative Session is scheduled to conclude on June 16, and we are hopeful that this legislation will perish at that time, at least until next year, when we anticipate the battle will be rejoined.
Please continue to pray for a Culture of Life, and continue to educate others — including your own elected officials — about the risks of legalizing physician-assisted suicide. Excellent resources can be found here and here.
by Kathleen M. Gallagher
The state of Oregon is out with its most recent statistical report about how the assisted suicide law is working. The data (and it can’t be considered complete data because assisted suicide deaths are not reported as such under the law) is most revealing…and frightening. First off, there has been a marked spike in the reported number of patients requesting assisted suicide. From the time the law was enacted through 2013, the number of lethal prescriptions written increased about 12% each year. But in 2014 and 2015, the number of prescriptions written jumped by more than 24%. That is likely the result of branding and marketing by the suicide advocates, who used the face of Brittany Maynard to promote their cause.
But contrary to that campaign, the Oregon data reveals that the typical assisted suicide patient is elderly, alone, dependent on others, and dependent on government health insurance. The top three reasons for requesting lethal drugs under the law are not reasons of physical pain or suffering; they are 1) decreasing ability to participate in enjoyable activities; 2) loss of autonomy; and loss of dignity.
My colleague Ed Mechmann in the Archdiocese of New York does a great job of breaking down the numbers — and the dangers — in his column here.
The full 2015 Oregon report is available here.
by Kathleen M. Gallagher
The definition of “mercy” and the mission of Calvary Hospital in the Bronx were the inspiration for my Christmas column this year. I realize it is a bit tardy for the Christmas Season, but I believe the column is worthwhile reading for anytime during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. Take a look here, as published in The Tablet, the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.
by Kathleen M. Gallagher
On Sunday I happened to catch CBS’ “60 Minutes” new episode about the death penalty. It highlighted the case of an Arizona prisoner who was sentenced to die by lethal injection. The state had tried a new combination of drugs for this execution, and instead of death within a few minutes, as expected, it took two hours and 15 injections of drugs to kill the man, who lay gasping and gulping on the gurney. According to the correspondent on 60 Minutes, things went “horribly awry.”
The episode focused on the increasing difficulty states are having in finding execution drugs. Apparently many drug companies have banned the use of their drugs for capital punishment, leaving states to try new drugs, or cocktails of drugs, that will work, and will work in a way that is not considered barbaric or “cruel and unusual.”
So here’s my question: Since it doesn’t appear that states are having any trouble finding the lethal drugs to use in assisted suicides, why can’t they just use those for executions? Assisted suicide advocates repeatedly remind us that when terminally ill patients self-administer their pills, they simply close their eyes and die a “peaceful” and “humane” death. Now that five states have legalized the practice, with California being the latest and the largest — and even more states considering legalization — the drugs can’t be that hard to come by, can they?
- Could it be that the lethal drugs used in assisted suicides don’t always lead to “peaceful” deaths? I mean, how would we know, really?
- Do you think that pharmaceutical companies will ever ban the use of their drugs for assisted suicides the way they’ve banned them for executions? Ha! That would be political correctness gone horribly awry!
Note: This blog post is purposefully facetious and intended to make a point: Human life is sacred. It is always sacred, no matter whether the life is a convicted killer sitting on death row or a terminally ill cancer patient in his own bedroom. States should not be in the business of killing them or assisting in their deaths in any way.
by Kathleen M. Gallagher
By now you have probably seen, or at least heard about, the videotapes on which Planned Parenthood officials speak bluntly about trafficking in the organs and tissues of aborted babies. Here’s my take, as published in The Tablet, the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.
by Kathleen M. Gallagher
Legislation to legalize physician-assisted suicide has been introduced in New York State, and organizations like Final Exit Network are all in. They say that absolutely no abuses have taken place in states where doctor-assisted suicide is legal.
How could they possibly know that? Under the law, doctors who “aid-in-dying” are required to state untruthfully on the death certificate that their patient’s cause of death was their underlying illness, and not the lethal dose of drugs they prescribed that killed them. There is absolutely no way to track abuses. This same provision is in the New York Senate proposal, by the way. More