Tag Archives: abortion

Jamaica women’s clinic attracts anti-abortion demonstrations

| kmedoff@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Katrina Medoff

Seven patient escorts in white lab coats and 13 anti-abortion demonstrators holding pamphlets and large, graphic posters depicting bloody fetuses stood poised in the rain at the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 147th Place on Saturday, waiting for patients to approach Choices Women’s Medical Clinic.

A patient reached for the side door of the clinic, and everyone snapped into action: two escorts began guiding the woman toward the patient entrance, and a man stepped in front of them.

“Don’t go to Choices, ma’am,” he said. “Don’t go kill the baby, ma’am. Don’t go in there, they kill babies, ma’am. They kill babies, ma’am. Look at that picture,” he said, pointing at one of the signs. “You don’t have to do that.”

The patient stood frozen as pamphlet-wielding women with similar refrains competed for her attention with one of the escorts, who attempted to reassure her and move her forward.

Finally, the woman headed toward the entrance, flanked by the escorts. The man followed, leaning around an escort’s umbrella — used as a makeshift shield — and repeating his plea until the patient was through the clinic door.

Such scenes have been occurring regularly ever since Choices moved to Jamaica two and a half years ago, and a group from Church @ the Rock in Brooklyn started coming to the clinic every Saturday at about 6:45 a.m.

“We call it ‘Saturday mournings’ because babies are being murdered and we’re here to stand up for these babies,” said Pat, 60, a woman from Church @ the Rock, who was holding a sign depicting a latex-gloved hand holding a bloody fetus.

On recent (sunnier) Saturdays, there have been about 20 escorts and 20 demonstrators from Church @ the Rock as well as from Catholic groups, said a volunteer clinic escort leader, 25, from the New York City chapter of the National Organization for Women.

“We’ve been here in the ice cold, in the heat of summer,” said Lois Griepp, 62, wife of Pastor Kenneth Griepp of Church @ the Rock.

Choices has had several homes in its 43 years, including Flushing, Rego Park and Long Island City, said Merle Hoffman, president, founder and CEO of the clinic, but demonstrators began coming out “en masse” only after the move to Jamaica, where there is a “dearth of prenatal care.”

“As soon as we moved, these people started coming. In fact, they started demonstrating at the location even before it opened,” said Mary Lou Greenberg, the Choices volunteer escort program director. “I realized that we would need a regular escort program because they would set up their signs so it’s a gauntlet.”

Escorts hail from all over the area, including Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island. One escort from Jersey City wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to arrive at 7 a.m.

Some patients walking into the clinic are getting abortions, according to a Choices administrator, but many visit Choices for other services such as family planning, counseling and gynecological services such as STI testing, breast exams and pap smears.

Hoffman says demonstrators are “bullying, harassing women attempting to walk into the facility,” regardless of their reasons for visiting the clinic — as well as passersby.

One escort, “Chickie,” 60, of Jamaica, says that the demonstrators “intimidate children.”

“You have a woman coming in for a prenatal visit, visibly pregnant, with another child,” Hoffman said, “and one of [the demonstrators] said to the kid, ‘Why is your mommy taking you in there? Don’t you know she’s going in to kill your little brother or sister?’”

Griepp counters that women visiting Choices for prenatal care is “great,” but that “this particular clinic, if you go to their website … the first tab they have after their homepage is ‘Abortion.’”

One Choices administrator stressed that the clinic is affiliated with adoption agencies across the nation and with organizations that offer parenting classes, offering women resources no matter what decision they make when pregnant.

Some patients feel the need to tell the demonstrators why they are at the clinic in the hope that demonstrators will leave them alone, even though they would not need to explain why they were visiting any other medical facility, said Esther Priegue, director of social services at Choices.

Nearby businesses say they are affected by the demonstrators. Rigo Mendez, 30, of Corona, manager of Smilen Brothers Market across the street from the clinic, says that customers are deterred by the graphic signs nearby.

“In the morning, when the customers come in, they always complain about the pictures,” Mendez said.“They want to come and eat breakfast and they see the pictures and they say, ‘[Why don’t] you guys tell them to move?’ Business is going down on Saturdays.”

And a cashier at Popular Varieties & Gifts, located next door to the clinic, said, “When they’re outside, less people come in because sometimes the posters that they’re holding up, people are disgusted, they look away and don’t see the store. Or [the customers] are followed because [the demonstrators] all assume that they’re going to the clinic or something.”

The issue of demonstrators outside of abortion clinics is front and center not only in Queens but across the nation after a June Supreme Court decision that ruled that Massachusetts’ 35-foot buffer zone law restricted free speech. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. pointed to New York City’s laws that forbid obstructing access to a clinic or following or harassing patients within 15 feet of a clinic, according to a recent article in the New York Times.

But in Jamaica, it seems that issues of harassment, intimidation, actively impeding patients and free speech are not often clear-cut, and that it’s difficult to tell when a line is crossed.

“It can be so very nebulous at times,” Chickie said.

Abortion protest draws from both sides

| MKirk@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Mitchell Kirk

Lines of principle were drawn on the streets as members of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church held a prayer vigil outside of Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica.

The parishioners’ presence on Saturday, October 20 was matched by that of Choices staff members and women’s reproductive health advocates, who held signs displaying pro-choice sentiments and led patients into the clinic.

In an interview before the vigil began, the Rev. Christopher M. O’Connor of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary said they would be praying “for conversion for those who work [at Choices], for conversion for those who may be thinking about getting an abortion and for healing for those who have had an abortion.”

O’Connor said he hoped “that this clinic will no longer be necessary in our neighborhood.”

About 75 people came out in support of the church, praying and singing hymns behind a barricade monitored by NYPD along 147th Place. Fresh Meadows resident Jeslyn, who declined to give her last name, was one of the church members who attended the vigil.

“I’m just against abortion,” she said. “I mean, if you’re going to be having sex and get pregnant and don’t want the baby, then you shouldn’t be doing it.”

Howard Beach resident Antoinette Wolske, a retired registered nurse, also came out in support of the church.

“I was around when abortion started,” she said. “I realized that they’re taking a life, whether it’s pieces or a whole baby.”

On the other side of the street, Choices staff members and volunteers countered the vigil by donning white lab coats, holding signs and assisting patients visiting the clinic.

“It’s the microcosm of the macrocosm,” said Merle Hoffman, a women’s health activist who opened Choices in March.

“What we’re seeing on this street in Jamaica is going on all over the country. I was very glad to see strong, pro-choice women come out and show support.”

Sunsara Taylor said she has stood on the side of pro-choice at events like this all over the country since the 1990s.

“If women cannot decide for themselves, then they have no more freedom than slaves,” she said. “It really is a war on women. We’re going to lose if we don’t stand up and defend women and defend doctors.”

Before Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary held its prayer vigil, members of Church at the Rock in Brooklyn were outside of Choices that morning “advocating for the lives of the unborn and for women’s health,” said Rachelle, a member of Church at the Rock. “We love these women, we value them, and our desire is for them to love and value their children.”

Choices volunteer Emily Heller said it was important to remain vigilant in their cause.

“Even though it’s still mellow, it’s still a statement, and we’re trying to make people feel safe when coming in,” she said.

Eighteen people busted in alleged $1.9M auto loan scheme in Queens

| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Eighteen people busted in alleged $1.9M auto loan scheme in Queens

Eighteen people were indicted today for their alleged roles in two auto loan fraud schemes that resulted in nearly $2 million in losses, authorities said. Sixteen people have been arraigned in Queens Supreme Court on charges that include grand larceny and possession of stolen property, while two others remain at-large. Twelve of the accused scammers allegedly purchased luxury cars, such as Cadillac Escalades, BMWs and Porsches, between July 2008 and March 2010, officials said. Read More: New York Post

Help for Home Owners

The city is aiming to restore the homeownership hopes of Queens residents hit hard by the foreclosure crisis. Deputy Mayor Robert Steel and New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) Commissioner Mathew Wambua joined Queens elected officials, as well as representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the New York Mortgage Coalition on November 15 to announce the commencement of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 (NSP2) Buyer Assistance Program. Read More: Queens Courier


Stabbings Take Place Near Manhattan School

Sources say two teenagers were wounded during an attempted robbery of a jacket near P.S. 153 in Hamilton Heights in Manhattan this afternoon. NY1 has learned one was wounded in the stomach and the other was wounded in the hand. Both were taken to the hospital. Police are looking for two suspects, one male and one female. Read More: NY1

Man Who Funded Terror Plotter To Be Sentenced Today

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Bronx Man Charged With Murder Of East Harlem College Student

Police have made an arrest in connection with the death of a Manhattan woman. Bakary Camara, a 41-year-old Bronx resident was charged with the murder of 36-year-old Rita Morelli. The Italian college student’s body was found last Wednesday in an apartment on East 120th Street in East Harlem with cuts to her neck. Morelli left her hometown in Italy five years ago to pursue a career in design. Read More: NY1

Baby in trash in upper Manhattan was killed; young mom charged with “self-abortion” 

The young mother of a dead female fetus found in the trash in upper Manhattan has been charged with self-abortion, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Thursday. Yaribely Almonte, 20, wrapped the fetus in plastic and dumped the girl in a bin outside her building on W. 191st. St., near Wadsworth Ave. A man sorting recyclables discovered the child’s lifeless body Tuesday, and Almonte was charged Wednesday night. Under state law, a woman can be charged with self-abortion if the fetus is older than 24 weeks. Read More: Daily News