Council initiative will help to ensure that all New York women have access to reproductive health care

New York, NY – Over the past year, offensive rhetoric and disturbing protest outside reproductive health clinics have become increasingly divisive and intrusive. As a result, women in need of reproductive health services are often faced with hostile and intimidating situations when they seek care. In response, Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Council Members, along with advocates from Planned Parenthood, the New York Civil Liberties Union, NARAL Pro-Choice, the National Organization for Women and Choices Women’s Medical Center, will organize volunteers to become trained as clinic escorts through a new initiative, the City Council Clinic Protection Project (CPP). These escorts will be deployed to sites citywide to accompany patients and staff into clinics while shielding them from demonstrators. The announcement comes on the eve of an anti-choice action against Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens.

“Building on our clinic access laws, today we are taking action to ensure that reproductive health centers are welcoming and safe places for women,” said Speaker Quinn. “Protestors have a right to speak their minds, but the exercise of the First Amendment should never intimidate anyone from accessing medical care. Dangerous rhetoric and actions against a woman’s right to choose will not be tolerated in our city, and every woman deserves the right to make health care decisions for herself without fear. We will continue to protect this basic right in the face of any adversity.”

Volunteer training will teach conflict de-escalation techniques and a review of governing federal, state and local laws related to clinic access. Volunteers will be deployed throughout the city on Saturday, November 3 and will be available every Saturday through the end of the year.

“I’ve been a Planned Parenthood Clinic escort and I know how much of a difference it can make for women who are scared and often confused by the protesters. Women should never be intimidated away from accessing basic, sound health care,” said Council Member Jessica Lappin.

“As Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus, I am proud to stand with Speaker Quinn, my fellow colleagues and advocates as we partner on the Clinic Protection Project,” said Council Member Rosie Mendez. “Often, the most essential and fundamental rights are not self-enforcing, even with respect to the private and personal matter of reproductive health decisions. Today, we add a vital and meaningful component to the Clinic Access Law of 2009 in the form of training programs and volunteer clinic escorts. I am confident that the CPP will increase public safety, public health and empower and support women as they make constitutionally protected reproductive health decisions.”

“It is unacceptable that New York City women are facing such hostile protesters while trying to enter a reproductive health clinic. The Council Clinic Protection Project will protect those who are taking advantage of their right to choose – whether they are simply having an informative consultation or taking action,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Just because one has a right to choose doesn’t mean it’s an easy choice. Having clinic escorts help guide the women to and from the clinic will certainly make it a less difficult process. I believe that this is great step forward for New York City’s women.”

“Women who seek medical care at reproductive health clinics have an inalienable right to access care without fear of abuse or harassment. I am pleased to join with Speaker Quinn and my colleagues in the Council to launch this program to provide safe escorts for women seeking assistance,” said Council Member Gale A. Brewer.

“As the attacks on women’s reproductive health continue, The New York City Council Clinic Protection Project is a smart and effective way to provide safety and security in protecting our rights. I strongly support this effort and commend Speaker Quinn for her leadership in this important matter,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz.

“We must ensure our clinics are safe zones, not places of intimidation and violence,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “Women should not feel afraid to seek the health care services that they need. Women’s reproductive rights is often a family issue. Like President Obama said, this is a pocketbook issue, not just a health issue. I want to thank Speaker Christine Quinn for this important initiative and for making our streets safer for women in New York City.”

“I am pleased that Speaker Quinn and the City Council are mobilizing volunteers for this meaningful program. Personally, it is a little bittersweet as I remember my fight for reproductive freedom as a college student. It is deeply disappointing that we still have to organize to protect the basic right of women to make private healthcare decisions without the interference of others,” said Assembly Member Deborah Glick.

“Planned Parenthood of New York City enthusiastically supports the Clinic Protection Project. We thank Speaker Chris Quinn for her continued support for unfettered access to reproductive health care in New York City. We look forward to partnering with the Speakers Office by providing escort philosophy, best practices for escorting, and training for volunteer escorts,” said Joan Malin, CEO & President of PPNYC.

Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union said, “We applaud the creation of the Council’s Clinic Protection Project. We recognize that people who object to abortion have a right to peaceful protest, but women who are seeking reproductive health care also have a right to those services. Clinic escorts play a critical role in ensuring that women can access the reproductive health care they need.”

“Women everywhere should be able to feel safe when they access reproductive health care. Unfortunately, all too often protestors and those who wish to shame and coerce women create intimidating and potentially dangerous environments outside reproductive health care facilities,” said Andrea Miller, President, NARAL Pro-Choice New York. “Even here in New York City, such protests have increased in intensity in recent years. That’s why NARAL Pro-Choice New York is both proud and grateful that the New York City Council is continuing to take clinic access seriously by training and organizing members of its staff to volunteer as clinic escorts outside reproductive health care facilities across the city. Speaker Quinn’s leadership on this effort sends a powerful message to New York City women that their safety and wellbeing is of paramount importance.”

“Women shouldn’t need an escort just to get into their doctor’s office, but this is the reality for women across the country and right here in New York City. However, anti-choice protesters will not change the fact that abortion is legal medical care and that clinics will continue to operate. Delivery of safe and comprehensive health care to women is simply too vital,” said Sonia Ossorio, President, National Organization for Women.

“Now, as we approach the 40th Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, women and girls at clinics in this city have to pass through a gauntlet of vicious bullies who scream misogynist and racist epithets. Pro-choice people in New York have escorted women and defended clinics for decades. I salute Speaker Quinn’s initiative to strengthen these efforts,” said Choices Women’s Medical Center President and CEO Merle Hoffman.