City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Kew Gardens Hills, Pomonok, Electchester, Fresh Meadows, Hillcrest, Jamaica Estates, Briarwood, Parkway Village, Jamaica Hills, Jamaica) and Public Advocate Letitia James (D) both issued highly critical statements regarding last week’s Federal Court decision supporting anti-abortion protestors at a women’s clinic in Jamaica.
The state lawsuit that former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed in June asked for a preliminary injunction against anti-abortion protestors and to create a 16-foot buffer zone around the Choices Women’s Medical Center, 147-32 Jamaica Avenue.
On Saturdays since 2012, protesters have gathered outside the clinic at 7 a.m. urging women arriving at the medical center not to have an abortion.
For the next three hours, according to a Schneiderman’s lawsuit, protesters violated federal, state and city laws guaranteeing access to reproductive health care by crowding women as they entered the clinic and ignoring their requests to be left alone.
Protesters tried to block the entrance with 3-by-5-foot signs with what they said were pictures of aborted fetuses and allegedly made death threats to people trying to escort women — not all of whom were there for an abortion — into the clinic, according to the lawsuit.
But Judge Carol Bagley Amon of the Federal District Court for the Eastern District, ruled last Friday that the attorney general’s office “failed to show” that any of the 13 defendants “had the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm” patients, their companions or the people escorting women into the clinic.”
Choices Women’s Medical Center Founder and President Merle Hoffman said the court’s decision denying patients and staff protection from the harassment and intimidation they currently experience on a weekly basis is inexplicable.
“Only by ignoring the unbearable atmosphere of hate and chaos deliberately created by these anti-choice zealots could the court parse their conduct to avoid finding violations of federal, state, and city law,” said Hoffman. “The Attorney General must appeal. I call on every agency responsible for protecting our patients and staff to be proactive and vigilant, as this decision will surely embolden those who already harass and threaten women exercising their constitutional right to safe and legal abortion services.”
Lancman, chair of the council’s Committee on the Justice System, also urged the attorney general to appeal the decision.
“The court’s ruling is another blow to Roe v. Wade, effectively limiting abortion rights to women willing to run a gauntlet of harassment, intimidation, obstruction, and humiliation,” said Lancman.
James, who is also a running for attorney general in the Sept. 13 primary, said the court decision sets a dangerous precedent.
“It is unconscionable that any person would be subjected to harassment, threats, and even physical violence for simply seeking or providing medical care – and that our courts would condone this behavior. Now, more than ever, we must establish laws in our state that protect women’s reproductive rights and ensure this type of behavior is never tolerated,” said James.