Cops, Clinic to Meet Over Abort Protests
by Robert Polner and Dan Morrison
New York Newsday, June 4, 1998
A top mayoral aide has arranged for police officials to meet today with employees of a Brooklyn women's health clinic who charge that the local precinct is allowing antiabortion protesters to harass patients, a lawyer for the clinic said yesterday.
The meeting was set up by the office of Deputy Mayor Randy Mastro after the Ambulatory Surgery Center in Sunset Park threatened to publicize six hours of videotape that allegedly depicts protesters grabbing, taunting, and shoving pamphlets into the faces of female patients, clinic attorney Edward l,and said.
In February, the clinic lost a motion for an injunction to order police to set up a 20-foot buffer zone around the clinic. . . .
The clinic is appealing the denial of the preliminary injunction, which came in a lawsuit it filed at State Supreme Court in Brooklyn against several abortion opponents who protest outside the clinic. Those include Msgr. Philip Reilly, whose group, Helpers of God's Precious Infants, demonstrates daily outside the clinic. Bishop Thomas Daily of the Diocese of Brooklyn, who sometimes holds prayer vigils there, is also a defendant in the case.
Protesters have been a daily presence outside the clinic, which offers pediatric care, radiology, and other services in addition to abortions, since it opened five years ago, said [the] administrator. . . .
The crowds range from three or four people to 100 or more, [the administrator] said, particularly during Bishop Daily's vigils.
Kevin Kearney, attorney for the Diocese of Brooklyn, said most of the claims against Daily were dismissed in March.
Reilly's attorney, Kathleen O'Connell, called the charges of harassment "absolutely untrue," and termed the suit against Daily as "ludicrous."
"They do outreach," she said. "They do not violate any laws."
The meeting comes as Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican, is trying to gain national prominence as a moderate who backs abortion rights. City Hall was brought into the controversy after an abortion rights activist working on behalf of the clinic told a mayoral aide that the clinic had scheduled a news conference for Saturday.
"Randy Mastro received notification that the clinic was concerned about a lack of protection and immediately asked the police commissioner's office to respond to the situation," said Colleen Roche, spokeswoman for the mayor.
Deputy Insp. Michael Collins, a police spokesman, said officers have maintained a balance between the protesters' rights to free speech and the clinic's legal right to do business.
[The administrator] said Capt. Harry Wedin of the 72nd Precinct had ignored several letters of complaint. In August, [the administrator] said, Chief of Patrol Wilbur Chapman told [the administrator] and Wedin to "work it out."
In March, [the administrator] said, he offered to show Wedin a copy of the videotape before it was entered into evidence in the clinic's lawsuit against the protesters but was rebuffed.