Fighting for Choices

Posted by Emma Brownstein
(@Emma Brownstein)

Photo by: The Huffington Post

The Fight for Your Rights

The fight for abortion rights just took a step forward. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has filed a federal lawsuit against increasingly violent anti-abortion protesters outside of Choices, a clinic in Jamaica, Queens. Every Saturday for the past five years, protesters have verbally and physically assaulted patients, threatening violence and blocking access to the front door with huge posters of highly-edited fetuses.

“The tactics used to harass and menace Choices’ patients, families, volunteers, and staff are not only horrifying – they’re illegal,” Schneiderman said in his statement. The suit alleges that protesters violate the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, as well as New York City Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act, which prevent obstruction of access to clinics like Choices.

Photo by: Sybile Penhirin

The Law

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,” said Schneiderman. He also made a point of mentioning that access to abortion is protected in the constitution, in response to the common retort made by protestors that they have the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

The lawsuit seeks to create a sixteen-foot buffer zone around the clinic, along with alleging protestor offences including, but not limited to: Making death threats to clinic escorts, threatening staff members, offering potential safety only if they quit their jobs, video recording patients and staff outside of the clinic, and physically blocking the path of individuals attempting to enter Choices by holding three-by-five foot posters in their way.

outside choices
Photo by: Queens Courier/Katrina Medoff

Schneiderman is the Man

Schneiderman, a common advocator for women’s reproductive rights, is getting praise and support for his agency. Joan Malin, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of New York City (PPNYC) said “PPNYC applauds Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for standing up for improved access to reproductive health care. No person should face harassment, bullying or intimidation while accessing health care services, period.

The Big Picture

Abortion access is becoming more and more fragile. Protesters storm clinics across the nation, threatening patients in the same manner as the defendants in Schneiderman’s suit. States continue to stay indifferent to restrictions, legal and otherwise, of women’s health. While it is just one step, the suit is seen to be a huge victory for abortion rights, as it sets a statewide precedent to protect women against illegal, unnecessary harassment. “We think it’s going to send a very powerful message,” Schneiderman said.

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