Brooklyn Clinic Struggles to Survive
NOW-NYC newsletter, September-October 1998
A Spanish-speaking woman, approaching her community health center, is confronted by an anti-choice demonstrator. Abortion is illegal in the United States, he tells her in Spanish. You'll be arrested if you go into the clinic. Frightened, the woman leaves, but returns later to file a complaint.
Another patient visits the center for a pregnancy test; while she is inside, anti-abortion protestors outside tell her boyfriend she has actually come to the clinic for an abortion. The boyfriend drags her out of the center, takes her home, and beats her so badly she has to be hospitalized that night.
Are these the actions of caring, concerned Christians with love in their hearts? No: They are the actions of extremist groups -- with eerie names like "Helpers of God's Precious Infants" and "Children of the Corn" -- who don't care who gets hurt.
These stories are not rare exceptions in a nation where abortion is a protected legal right; they are true, all-too-frequent events that happen in communities across the U.S., in our country, where our reproductive rights are under increasing attack -- by politicians, as well as religious right-wingers.
The Ambulatory Surgery Center of Brooklyn, scene of the demonstrations of anti-choice interference mentioned above, needs the help of New York City feminists. The Center desperately needs volunteers to work as escorts, voters to put pressure on local government officials -- and a victory in court.
Over the past few years -- while the Ambulatory Surgery Center has endured daily anti-abortion demonstrations -- several New York City health clinics offering abortions have closed due to anti-choice harrassment. Despite similar financial and psychological stresses, the Brooklyn center has kept its doors open, providing necessary medical services to the Sunset Park community.
Police officers are stationed in front of the center, but despite their presence, anti-choice demonstrators continually restrict patients' access by attempting to block the clinic entrance, forcing literature on women approaching the Center, following patients on the street, and ignoring patients' requests to be left alone. Individuals associated with the Center have received death threats, and the building was set on fire several months ago.
The Center's surveillance videotapes show police officers and protestors talking on friendly terms, and the same officers standing idly by while "antis" harrass patients. Part of the problem, says . . . the Center's administrator, is an atmosphere in which anti-abortion protestors feel that local police support -- or at least tolerate -- their position. The local precinct's police captain, Harry Wedin, displays a photo of the Pope in his office, according to representatives of the Center.
"It has become clear to me that there's more value placed on an automobile in the 72nd Precinct than there is on women," [the administrator] said at NOW-NYC's July membership meeting.
The officers' refusal to enforce the laws that protect clinics- such as the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act of 1994 and a similar New York State bill -- endangers the health of the patients and staff of the Center.
The Center -- which offers pediatric care and radiology, among other services - lost a motion for a court injunction to establish a buffer zone around the clinic. It is now appealing that decision.
What we can do: