In light of anti-choice protests escalating surrounding Roe v. Wade anniversary, clinic escorts are essential to help women access reproductive health care

New York, NY – Forty years since Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in this country, women are still fighting for their right to choose, while anti-choice groups can often make this choice even more intimidating and difficult for women seeking reproductive health services. Disturbing and hostile protests outside reproductive health clinics have become even more divisive and intrusive in light of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In response to this, Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Council Members, along with advocates from Planned Parenthood, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), NARAL Pro-Choice and the National Organization for Women, are organizing volunteers to become trained as clinic escorts. Today, the Council will host the first of these trainings, conducted by Planned Parenthood and NYCLU, followed by another to be held on February 2.

To date, more than 50 volunteers have signed up for the trainings that 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 to accompany patients and staff into clinics while shielding them from demonstrators. Speaker Quinn, Council Members and advocates were joined by a Planned Parenthood clinic escort volunteer at City Hall where they made the announcement today.

“Protestors have a right to speak their minds, but the exercise of the First Amendment should never intimidate anyone from accessing medical care,” said Speaker Quinn. “In light of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, there is no time more critical than now to demonstrate our steadfast support for a woman’s right to choose. Every woman deserves to make health care decisions for herself without fear, and I applaud our clinic escort volunteer trainees for their commitment to this critical cause.”

“As chair of the Women’s Issues Committee, I’m thrilled that the Clinic Protection Project becomes a reality today. These volunteer escorts will perform a great service to women trying to access reproductive health care. I thank Speaker Quinn, Council Member Lappin, Council Member Mendez and all of the pro-choice advocates who fight so tirelessly on behalf of women’s rights,” said Council Member Julissa Ferreras.

“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.”

“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.”