Ten tips for writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper about NYS’s new abortion law

Published on March 12th, 2019

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.

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