In 2017, former New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against pro-life activists who demonstrated outside Choices Women’s Medical Center, an abortion clinic, in New York’s Queens district.
According to Schneiderman’s lawsuit, the protesters violated women’s access to “reproductive health care” by obstructing the entrance to the abortion clinic and harassing those who attempted to enter. The suit therefore requested a federal judge to halt the pro-life demonstrations via a preliminary injunction, and to shield the clinic with a 16-foot buffer zone.
In a victory for the pro-life movement, however, Judge Carol Bagley Amon ruled on July 20th that Schneiderman “failed to show” that the pro-life activists “had the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm” anyone who entered the abortion clinic.
“The interactions on the sidewalk outside Choices [Women’s Medical Center] were generally quite short, and there is no credible evidence that any protester disregarded repeated requests to be left alone over an extended period or changed his or her tone or message in response to requests to be left alone in a way that suggested an intent to harass, annoy, or alarm,” Judge Amon stated in a written opinion.
The decision drew predictable criticism from the National Organization for Women (NOW), a pro-abortion group. “What’s happening now is crossing a line,” claimed Jean Bucaria, deputy director for NOW’s New York City chapter. “You shouldn’t have to be screamed at, yelled at or harassed to get to a doctor.”
Despite Judge Amon’s ruling to the contrary, Queens councilman Rory Lancman echoed Bucaria, arguing that the pro-life activists’ demonstrations constituted an attempt to shame and intimidate women seeking abortion: “What’s the value of having abortion rights if you can’t get to the clinic without being harassed or humiliated?”
Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for New York’s current attorney general, similarly advanced the narrative that the pro-life demonstrations amounted to “harassment.”
Nevertheless, Judge Amon found that witness testimony against the protesters overstated the “impropriety of the [protesters’] conduct” and did not consider “mitigating circumstances.” Amon opted to rely most heavily on security camera footage from the abortion clinic, rather than evidence from covert body cameras and microphones carried by pro-abortion operatives who attempted to enter the clinic.
Stephen Crampton of the Thomas More Society, a Chicago law firm which regularly represents pro-life groups, recognizes that Schneiderman’s lawsuit stemmed from partisan motives rather than a concern for fairness. “In our view the attorney general should have never brought this case,” Crampton stated. “This was more about politics than justice.”
Indeed, justice demands that the unborn receive their right to equal protection under the Constitution. To that end, New York’s pro-life protesters acted nobly. Judge Amon’s ruling confirms that they did so within the bounds of the law.