by Chris Kaminski
Park Slope Courier, January 28, 2002
Pro-life and pro-choice demonstrators squared off in front of the Brooklyn Ambulatory Surgery Center . . . in Sunset Park on Saturday, but by all accounts the counter demonstrations were peaceful.
Police had each group of protesters sectioned off with barriers. A buffer zone.of about 50 feet was kept between the two groups as well.
"This demonstration is a yearly event. We come prepared, but it's always quiet," said Deputy Inspector Michael Quinn, commanding officer of the 72nd Precinct, who was at the scene.
About 20 police officers were on the scene to make sure everything remained calm. One officer was perched on a nearby roof to observe from above. Forty-third Street was closed at both ends to keep traffic from using the street.
The styles of protest were contrasted quite strikingly, as the vocal, but outnumbered, pro-choice demonstrators chose to direct their chants at the pro-life demonstrators, who in turn faced away from the pro-choice faction and recited group prayers under the direction of Bishop Thomas V. Daily of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
The pro-life demonstrators, some of whom are regulars at the clinic who spend the day outside handing out leaflets to women entering the clinic, tried to ignore the pro-choice demonstrators and drown them out with prayer.
"We have a right to be here and so do they. We just try to have some dignity," said Francis Grippe, who criticized the pro-choice group for using what he called vulgar songs and chants.
"Each of these unborn children represents someone who is being robbed of a chance to live," said Harriet Flanagan, also of the pro-life group. "We are here fighting for them."
"This center commits murder, which is currently legal," said Kim Wenders as she clutched her rosary beads. "We will do what we can to let the young women who come here know that there are other ways."
While the pro-life demonstrators quietly genuflected, the pro-choice crowd was quite the opposite, singing loud songs, chanting and even playing musical instruments. Many in the crowd, which numbered about 25 as compared to about 100 pro-life demonstrators, wore colorful costumes and carried placards with such logans such as "Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries."
"Whenever Bishop Daily brings his folk down here, we come out to defend the facility," said a man who identified himself as Felicity Bundtcake of the Church Ladies for Choice.
"It's disturbing to see how his group interferes with a woman's right to choose," Bundtcake said. He said his group shows up at the Sunset Park clinic every time Bishop Daily comes.
"It's particularly cynical to target this clinic, which performs abortion but also provides many other services," he said. "They harass anyone who looks like they might be coming for an abortion."
Bundtcake was accompanied by a woman who referred to herself as Fallopian Tuba on, as to be expected, tuba as his group sang such ditties as "This Womb Is My Womb" sung to the tune of "This Land Is Your Land."
Some of the other chants were not quite as wholesome, including one that had the pro-choicers yelling "F... You" to their counterparts.
Several volunteers from the Brooklyn Pro-Choice Network, headquartered nearby on Fifth Avenue, were also on hand to make sure things stayed orderly. They wore orange pullovers that identified them as a clinic volunteer.
One woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she wished the pro-choice demonstrators showed up as often as the pro-life crowd. She said at least a handful of people from the pro-life crowd are out every day, either praying or handing out leaflets to people who walk by.
"I consider it harassment. They bother these women who are not necessarily getting an abortion, handing out pictures of stillborn fetuses and pushing prayer on them," the woman said. "The street counselors, as they call them, are the worst."
She pointed to a woman standing on the comer near the clinic, away form the crowd. The woman, bundled up to avoid the cold, clutched a stack of photocopied papers.
"That woman over there is out every day. She just approaches anyone who walks by and forces herself on them.
"It's almost like a blockade keeping people from entering the clinic," the anonymous woman said.
She said there are several of the "street counselors" out every day trying to persuade women to second-guess their decision. Workers from the clinic and volunteers sometimes try to counteract the counselors by letting them know they don't have to take the fliers.
When approached to respond to the anonymous woman's complaints, the other woman refused to talk and walked away. No one from the pro-life demonstration wanted to respond to the claims.