Last month, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law which prevented anti-abortion protestors from getting within 35 feet of a medical center’s entrance. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. cited New York City’s law as an example of appropriate legislation — “a permissible alternative” which balanced freedom of speech and the protection of patients. Current city law forbids protestors from getting within 15 feet of the entrance.
In a recent profile of Choices Women’s Medical Center Jamaica, Queens, a New York Times reporter observed the regulations in action by following a patient. Like almost every Saturday, protestors had gathered outside the clinic with posters of bloody fetuses and cameras fixed on the approaching patient’s face. Ms. Khan made her way to the clinic’s entrance, where volunteer escorts were waiting to help her get inside. She was about 15 feet away when one of the poster-shaking protestors inched closer and closer to her, urging “Don’t kill your baby!”
“Should I call the cops? I’m not even pregnant,” she asked. The 25-year-old patient, who had recently given birth, was just coming in for a gynecologic exam. The Times somberly concluded:
Though clinic workers elsewhere in New York City have praised their relationship with the police, at Choices the escorts have advised patients like Ms. Khan not to bother calling the authorities because they usually arrive too late to make a difference.