NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a federal lawsuit today against a number of anti-abortion groups who have been threatening and menacing patients and staff members at an abortion clinic in Jamaica, Queens. These threats have included following and harassing patients at the clinic's entrance, causing damage to the clinic's building, shouting at patients, harassing children accompanying patients, calling patients and staffers "murderers," and forcing anti-abortion literature on patients, according to the suit.
Schneiderman says anti-abortion groups like Church at the Rock in Brooklyn, Grace Baptist Church in Woodlawn, and Bright Dawn Ministries in Brooklyn, along with self-representing protestors, have been targeting Choices Women's Medical Center, a 40-plus-year-old abortion and women's health clinic, and one of the largest of its kind in New York State. Though the clinic has attracted protestors in the past—indeed, according to the suit, protestors have gathered outside the clinic every Saturday for at least the last five years—staffers say the situation has escalated over the past year.
Protestors have allegedly pushed patients into the clinic's exterior wall, blocked car doors from opening, shoved their heads and hands through patients' car windows, shoved and deliberately collided into volunteer escorts, and threatened terrorist attacks on the clinic. The suit details incidents in which protesters screamed things like "You have the blood of dead babies on your hands,” "You can die at any moment," "You don’t know when you might get shot," and "This is a place that murders children" at patients and volunteers; one protestor is accused of telling children accompanying their mothers into the clinic, "Don't let your mother go in there; they kill children in there."
Protestors also distribute and hold up photos of mangled fetuses, pass out anti-abortion literature, and wrongly advertise a connection between suicide and abortion to patients entering the facility, among other things. You can watch video of protestors below:
It is noteworthy that while staffers at Choices do perform abortions, patients can access an array of women's health services there, including gynecological check-ups and cancer screenings.
Schneiderman's suit aims to block the protestors from coming near the clinic. "The tactics used to harass and menace Choices’ patients, families, volunteers, and staff are not only horrifying - they’re illegal," Schneiderman said in a statement. "The law guarantees women the right to control their own bodies and access the reproductive health care they need, without obstruction."
Over the last year, the Attorney General's office has announced a number of suits and initiatives that aim to protect women's health access. In April, he teamed up with 15 other AGs to oppose a law defunding Planned Parenthood and other health service providers that perform abortions in the state of Ohio, and in January he introduced a bill aiming to keep contraception free for New Yorkers, even if the federal government guts the Affordable Care Act provision covering birth control.
In 2016, Gothamist spent a day speaking with protestors and patients outside the Choices clinic; you can read about our experience here.