The attorney general for New York filed a federal lawsuit on Tuesday this week, which was initiated against pro-life protestors who have recently spent time picketing outside a Queens abortion clinic. In the lawsuit, it is alleged that the protestors had violated local, state, and federal laws by protesting outside of the clinic. It also says that their activism has gone beyond free speech and has become an aggressive attempt to stop people from being able to access reproductive health care services.
According to breaking news website Breaking 911, a motion has been put forward to create a zone surrounding the clinic where protestors will not be able to gather. The website also says that the move comes as a result of work performed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman during an investigation in 2016 which looked into complaints.
“Horrifying” and “Illegal” Acts
In an official statement made outside the Choice abortion clinic of Jamaica, New York City, Schneiderman said that the tactics used by the protestors were “horrifying” and “illegal.” He said that “the law guarantees women the right to control their own bodies and access the reproductive health care they need,” and that he is willing to do what is necessary to ensure women can continue enjoying these rights.
The statement and lawsuit come after anti-abortion protestors have campaigned outside of the Choices clinic on every Saturday for five years. Campaigners have displayed photographs of aborted fetuses during their protests in an attempt to stop people going through with the procedure. Campaigners also made their voices heard loudly outside the clinic and handed out fliers to people passing by.
While the First Amendment protects these actions, Schneiderman claimed that their actions were stopping people from accessing safe abortions, which he claims is also a right protected by the United States constitution. Schniederman also said that American citizens are “not allowed to harass, intimidate and try to prevent people from exercising their constitutional rights.”
The lawsuit is being brought under three laws, including the New York City Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act, the New York State Clinic Access ACT, and the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.
The Chair of a Right to Life affiliate in Queens, Florence Maloney, says that if a new law is passed, it would be “an unnecessary encumbrance.”
The move by Schneiderman is not the first time he has attempted to stop pro-life protestors from publicly expressing their beliefs. The Attorney General has previously provided court-ordered protection for a Utica Planned Parenthood health clinic. In the official statement, the Attorney General’s office announced that they had secured a court order that protected the Planned Parenthood clinic from “threatening and obstructive action by protestors.”
The chairwoman for Right to Life of New York State, Barbara Meara, has also reacted to the lawsuit, explaining that protestors are simply trying to inform women that pregnancy care centers are available to help if they decide to go through with the pregnancy. She also said that they are “not there to intimidate or fight with anyone.”
Other Examples in US Law
In Mississippi, Jackson City recently agreed to a consent decree after a federal court ruled that pro-life activists had the right to preach, speak, and hold signs on public sidewalks. The ruling meant that picketers do not have to abide by city ordinances relating to signs, buffer zones, and noise levels.
Previously, the Supreme Court unanimously stopped a law in Massachusetts from 2014 that stopped protestors from picketing outside clinic entrances. Liberal and conservative judges agreed that the law violated the First Amendment right to free speech.