Politics

New York Just Took a Big Step to Protect Women Against Harassment at Abortion Clinics

June 21st 2017

By:
Almie Rose

New York is saying "enough" to the harassment of women outside abortion clinics. 

anti-abortion protest

When women visit these clinics, they're often harassed by anti-abortion protestors. This goes beyond people merely holding signs, which can feature misleading and edited photos of fetuses—women are shouted at, grabbed, and sometimes followed. The staff at the clinics are threatened as well.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is seeking to put an end to it by filing a federal lawsuit against these anti-abortion protestors, Huffpost reported on Tuesday. The suit specifically cites protesters outside of Choices Women's Medical Center in New York City.

anti-abortion

Schneiderman argues in a statement that the "tactics used to harass and menace Choices’ patients, families, volunteers, and staff are not only horrifying—they’re illegal. The law guarantees women the right to control their own bodies and access the reproductive health care they need, without obstruction. We’ll do what it takes to protect those rights for women across New York."

The lawsuit also seeks to enforce a "sixteen-foot buffer zone around the Choices premises." And, as the lawsuit also points out, there are women who visit Choices for a variety of reasons beyond abortion—and they're being harassed too.

anti-abortion protestors

Eleven defendants are named (plus one "Sharon Doe") in the lawsuit, with examples of extreme harassment.

The defendants used physical and verbal threats against the patients:

  • "On May 6, 2017, while trying to force anti-choice literature on a patient and her companion and repeatedly intoning “don’t kill your baby”, Sharon Doe followed a patient and
    her companion so closely from the corner of Jamaica and 147th Place to within fifteen feet of the clinic door that she stepped on the patient’s sandal and broke the patient’s shoe. The patient, who was already visibility upset as she turned onto 147th Place, began to openly weep with frustration at having lost her shoe and the ongoing harassment."
  • "On April 16, 2016, Defendant Ronald George warned clinic escorts, 'On 9/11, 3,000 people didn’t realize they wouldn’t be coming home that day. You never know when you wake up in the morning that you might die.'"
  • "On January 7, 2017, Defendant Randall Doe referenced mass shootings and terrorist events in the news, mentioning the January 6, 2017 Fort Lauderdale airport shooting and cautioning, again, 'you never know when you are going to die.'"
  • "Defendant Patricia Musco has followed and harassed clinic patients who identify themselves as being present for wellness visits, shouting at them within fifteen feet of the clinic: 'Your money supports the clinic, so you’re a murderer'; 'don't go in there, they will convince you to kill your baby—that's how they make money”; “you have the blood of dead babies on your hands'; and 'they are killing babies above your heads'."

One section of the suit alleges "ongoing harm," noting "some patients who manage to make it past the protesters still have difficulty accessing care, because they arrive at the clinic shaking and crying."

The accused also encourage outsiders to engage in harassment, the suit alleges. "For example, on March 19, 2016, after consulting with Defendant Ronald George, a passerby yelled at a clinic escort: 'you are going to burn in hell, you red-headed slut' and 'I hope a nigger fucks you.'"

Anti-abortion protestors might say they're protected under the First Amendment, but NYC Council Member Helen Rosenthal makes the argument that "no one should be forced to endure threats, intimidation, or harassment when seeking medical care."