Abortion Clinic Harassment Is One Step Closer To Being Stopped In New York

The Attorney General has announced a federal lawsuit against anti-abortion protestors

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As pro-life campaigners wage a war on reproductive rights in the US, the pro-choice movement is revving up.

Grassroots movements, such as this girl's abortion-access website, as well as state-funded support (California has pledged $20 million to counter possible Trump cuts) are all contributing to the protection of abortion access in the US.

'Access' of course means all sorts of things: will your doctor sign off on it? How far away is the clinic? Can you afford the time off? Is there a waiting time? Can you get the days off work? Do you have correct the correct information to make an informed choice? Do you have to ask permission from the father/ your parents? The list goes on.

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One of the other ways 'access' to a termination of pregnancies can be stymied is through pro-life protestors standing outside clinics, often harassing the women attempting to enter.

These protestors shame, scare and fear monger outside what should be safe, non-judgmental spaces.

'Across the Line' is a virtual reality video we featured recently that highlighted the stressful reality of being harassed when attempting to access safe healthcare.

There have been many attempts to stop these types of aggressions, in the UK MPs have attempted to create 'buffer zones' around abortion clinics to no avail.

Now people are taking it into their own hands, largely in the US, by becoming abortion clinic escorts. Hoping to shield women from protestors and attempt to protect their privacy (protestors apparently often film the women).

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Although this is obviously great support for women making a tough decision, it really isn't enough.

Finally, however, New York looks like it's making concrete steps to end abortion clinic harassment.

On Tuesday, the New York Attorney General Eric Schneideman announced a federal lawsuit he has filed against abortion protestors.

Schneideman released a statement, which came with a video of a woman being harassed.

It read:

The tactics used to harass and menace Choices' patients, families, volunteers, and staff are not only horrifying – they're illegal…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.

The injunction hopes to, 'enjoin the defendants from engaging in the unlawful conduct, and create a sixteen-foot buffer zone around the Choices premises to protect the rights and safety of patients, staff, and volunteers, in addition to seeking damages, penalties, costs, and attorney's fees.'

He is claiming that protests outside clinics have been happening every Saturday for the last five years and that they, 'have tried to impede access to reproductive health care services by subjecting incoming patients to a barrage of unwanted physical contact, as well as verbal abuse, threats of harm, and lies about the clinic's hours and its services.'

The Attorney General is alleging very aggressive behaviour from the protestors, who often physically push patients against walls, shove the volunteer exports, make violent threats and thrust their heads and arms into arriving cars.

In a speech on Tuesday, in which he announced the decision, Schneideman also addressed the 'First Amendment' (free speech) argument saying,

'It is as old as the First Amendment that proper restrictions on time, place and manner of speech are totally lawful. There are many things that are 'speech' that are restricted by the law. You are not allowed to ... harass, intimidate and try and prevent people from exercising their constitutional rights.'

Hopefully the lawsuit will be successful, and will set an exciting precedent for the rest of the US.

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