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Free from Intimidation and Harassment

May 9, 2012

It’s a rainy Wednesday.  I drove into the office today past four protesters and many more signs leaning against trees, hanging from the fence that borders the neighboring property, and propped up on the ground.  The protesters were huddled together under large umbrellas and did not turn toward my car as I drove past them into our driveway, although they usually do, and sometimes hold out pamphlets as they approach my moving vehicle.   The signs are the same – incendiary language about our services, the decisions our patients may be making about their pregnancies, and the threats directed against our doctors.  (Yes, saying that someone “kills babies” is a threat.  It’s language that incites violence against doctors.) 

People who protest outside of our health centers claim, in public venues – like legislative hearings – that they are there because they want to be sure that women get “all the facts”.  They say they are there because they give valuable information that women don’t hear “on the inside.”  And, they claim they are there because they want women to feel supported. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Their intent is, quite simply, to convince women by any means necessary not to have an abortion.  They give false and misleading information for that purpose.  And the words on their signs judge and shame women for the very same reason.

We know from the mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and friends of our patients that when women drive past these protesters, they feel threatened, intimidated, unsafe.  Some women have even said, “I’ve passed these protesters other times and never thought twice about it.  Now I’m wondering if we’re safe here.”  Yes, they do feel the judgment that is being made upon them.   They do not feel supported, as the protesters claim they want women to feel.  Nor do they think that the protesters have the information they need.

Regardless of how many times abortion opponents lie about what goes on inside a Planned Parenthood, the truth is we provide women with information about all their pregnancy options.  Women who come through our doors (and their loved ones) know that they can count on us for accurate information and quality care.  That includes accurate information about all of their pregnancy options – including adoption and parenting.  We give them the information that they need to make this personal, private decision and to take care of themselves.  We have relationships with adoption agencies and we provide prenatal care.  No matter how many fake statistics they give the reality is that women count on us because we do give them all their options and we provide them with non-judgmental care.

Scenes like the one I witnessed this morning, and sometimes worse, play out everyday across the country.  It’s the reason that we support and pursue local clinic access laws, as the best way to reduce the harassment and intimidation that too many of our patients face.  The atmosphere inside our centers, and other women’s health centers, is warm and inviting – yet in order to get into our centers our patients have to face the ugly side of humanity.  The side that judges, and encourages harsh, violent actions.   

On Monday night, the Westchester County Board of Legislators passed the Reproductive Health Care Facilities Access Act, also known as the clinic access bill, in a 10-7 vote.  Now the bill is sitting on the desk of Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who ran for office with the support of the local right-to-life party.  Take a stand for women in Westchester today and ask County Executive Astorino to allow patients across Westchester to access health care free from harassment and intimidation: tell him to sign the bill now.

Share it on Facebook, tweet it, email it, talk to your friends and family about it.  Spread the word and increase the pressure.  No one deserves to be harassed when they visit their health care provider.  No one deserves to face intimidation when they need a legal medical procedure.  No one should feel that their privacy or safety is threatened when entering the offices of any health care provider. 

We need the clinic access bill in Westchester.  Help us make it happen.

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