A.G. Files Lawsuit To Stop Harassment at Women’s Clinic
For several years, NOW-NYC and its sister organization, WJN, have led a comprehensive clinic escort program at a local women’s clinic which has been the target of aggressive anti-choice protestors. NOW-NYC’s volunteer escorts have been on-the-ground every week for five years, recording and documenting acts of harassment and abuse.
On June 20, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a lawsuit which aims to cease the hostile and aggressive behavior of protesters and create a site-specific 16-foot buffer zone around the clinic to protect access. NOW-NYC joined AG Schneiderman, Public Advocate Letitia James, and Choices Women’s Medical Center founder and president Merle Hoffman for the historic announcement. The press conference, held in front of Choices, received coverage from major news outlets, including the Huffington Post, Bustle, the Wall Street Journal, and New York Daily News.
“We commend Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and his team for challenging the notion that patients at women’s health clinics must endure hostility and harassment to simply see their doctor,” said Sonia Ossorio, Executive Director of Women’s Justice NOW & President, NOW-NYC. “A mother and child should not have to be subjected to someone following them with taunts like ‘don’t kill your child!’ as they enter the premises. Our volunteer clinic escorts see this behavior firsthand. Buffer zones are vital for patients and their families. We’re proud to be part of sending a clear and unwavering message that impeding access to women’s healthcare will not be tolerated in New York.”
This lawsuit documents a history of protesters’ threatening, violent, and obstructive behavior to intimidate women from entering the clinic. According to AG Schneiderman, protesters violated federal, state, and local laws – following and harassing patients and their families, making death threats to escorts, and menacing clinic, volunteers, and staff. Hoffman, on behalf of the medical center itself, expressed full support of AG Schneiderman’s actions: “I have been on the front lines of this struggle for women’s rights and women’s freedom for nearly fifty years. I have endured bomb threats, death threats, multiple evictions and the maiming and murder of colleagues and friends. And I am still here, because I made a vow to my first patient and to myself–that I would always be there for women and girls who came to me for services. I stand with A.G. Schneiderman and his staff—and with all abortion providers and patients—to say that this injustice must stop.”
At the press conference for the AG’s announcement, NOW-NYC Deputy Director, Jean Bucaria said, “It is especially critical in the era of Trump, where our reproductive rights are being diminished across the country, that we act to ensure the safe access of women to medical centers like Choices. Today, we are sending the unequivocal message that bullying and harassing patients outside of women’s health centers will not be tolerated in our state, in our city, and especially, not on this sidewalk.”
Read the Attorney General’s press release here.