New York City Bill Would Protect Clinic Patients from Harassment

It’s hard enough for patients to
access health care these days. Thanks to the recession, more and more men,
women and families are losing their health insurance or simply can’t
afford their co-pays at the doctor.

The last thing anyone needs is yet another barrier standing in the way
of health care, especially when that barrier takes the form of threats,
intimidation, and physical barriers to clinics. Yet for patients
visiting any one of the numerous reproductive health care clinics
across New York City, that’s exactly what they may run into. Luckily,
thanks to the courageous leadership of City Council Speaker Christine
Quinn, the New York City Council is reviewing legislation that will
protect both patients and clinics from the vicious harassment that yes,
still goes on in our city every day. It’s called the Clinic Access
Bill, and will among other things protect clinic patients and staff
from malicious harassment. Now, more than ever, is the time to pass
this legislation. Because we’re not just talking about rights and
policy: the health of women and their families is at stake.

It’s no secret that we’re in a recession. The national unemployment
rate is the highest it’s been since 1983, and New York’s unemployment
funds have been exhausted, leaving our state to rely on federal aid to
help the growing ranks of jobless New Yorkers. Anecdotally, our clinic
is hearing stories of women who are putting off visiting their own
doctors so they can afford to take their child to the pediatrician, or
can pay their rent and groceries that month.

Ironically, reproductive health care is all too often women’s primary
health care. It’s where they get their checkups, where they go for
cancer screenings, and often the one doctor women go to before all
others. Many reproductive health care clinics are safety net providers,
and make quality medical care available for free or for a sliding scale

So that’s why I find it so worrying when I see zealous protestors
outside of the clinic I work at, and outside of our partner clinics
across the city. That’s why it’s a problem when protestors block the
access to clinic doors, or grab patients on their way into an
appointment, or as happened at one clinic in the Bronx, knock the
clinic staff down on their way to work. The worst part about it is that
these protestors represent a small minority, Most New Yorkers are
pro-choice, and support keeping clinics and patients safe from

To be sure, everyone has a right to his or her opinion, and to make
that opinion known. But there’s a difference between freedom of speech
and harassment. Intimidation has never been a constitutionally
protected right.

So thank you, Christine Quinn and the New York City Council, for
helping to make sure this important legislation passes. Because in
these troubled times we should be making sure there are as few barriers
as possible to people seeking care. Our health and lives depend on it.

This post originally ran in El Diario.

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  • invalid-0

    Isn’t there a federal law protecting clinic access, and if there is, why the EFF is it not being enforced in NY State???

  • invalid-0

    Once the Supreme Court overturned the RICO conviction has been any blanket protection against “sidewalk counselors.”

    The underlying problem is that the so-called ‘pro-life’ movement has successfully defined the terms and scope of this battle– like al Qaeda saying, “we’re the party of God and you’re the secular terrorists.” Until the public starts paying attention to where they’re really coming from, they are not going to either subside or accept reality.

    To understand what the ‘pro-life’ movement really is, Google “aborticentrism” and find out why the closer responsibility for human life approaches them, the less sacred it becomes. And find out who paid dearly for St. Gianna Beretta Molla’s aborticentrism.

  • invalid-0

    I just wanted to remind women to give generously to Planned Parenthood for all of the wonderful work that they do. As Woman’s month comes to a close, I think that it is fitting to generously donate. I just gave a 75.00 donation, but you can give as little as 5.00. Whatever you can afford, to make sure that they can not only continue to provide quality and affordable healthcare to women who need it, but also to defend choice against mysogonists who want to take away women’s freedoms under the guise of rights for eggs and that nonsense. There is a lot of work to be done, do not be lulled into complacency by the fact that we now have a pro-choice president. We still need to work hard to undue the damage against women of the horrible Bush years. Please donate today in honor of womans’ month. Think of your daughters, nieces, and all of the young women who need choice to be free in the future. Thank you!!

  • invalid-0

    I’m just curious, you say that women in NYC “may” run into “threats, intimidation, [or] physical barriers to clinics,” but are there any actual reports of these? As a NYer, I feel like heralding the importance of such a law unfairly and greatly exaggerates any anti-abortion sentiment in this area, though I do acknowledge that taking a stand in places where something is not necessarily needed can be a step towards encouraging other municipalities to do the same.

  • invalid-0

    This touches many cords. From 1988 to 1991 I was part of the Pro Choice Alliance in Chicago, Ill. I ran crowd control at rally’s and was a committee member of a clinic protection group who covered many clinics to help women get in safely. It was an important and disturbing task.

    There is a lot of harm that has been done by the anti-choice movement, more and deeper than the obvious laws and terrorism (during the Reagan years clinics were bombed, and there were murders, and yes they were recorded, and that’s terrorism). But the good work of educating women (and girls) on a national level and providing family PLANNING services has been severely sidetracked in order to keep from losing what should be protected rights, and that’s caused a problem that will continue into the next generation.

    I always want to correct someone when they say Pro Life, in parenthesis or not. The issue regards choice, and so the pro and anti go around choice, not life. No one is anti life, we are all in favor of it, but some of us are Pro-Choice and some are Anti-Choice, don’t give them their game, there’s a lot in a word.

  • invalid-0

    Nice post, Thanks for sharing.Good job

  • invalid-0

    It should be possible to offer you some further concepts on a way to resolve some of the problems you could be encountering. Each clinician and hospital is both similar and different at the same time. Each will have their own individual way of expressing themselves. Hopefully, you’ll be able to gain enough understanding of how best to resolve your special issues. You are paying for the help, so if you are ever about to make mistakes, this is not the time to do it. That way you can actually get your cash’s worth. If the clinician never sees the difficulty, there isn’t much they can do to help look after it.