New York City Bill Would Protect Clinic Patients from Harassment

Haydee Morales

The last thing anyone needs in this recession is another barrier standing in the way of health care, especially when that barrier takes the form of threats, intimidation, and physical barriers to clinics.

It’s hard enough for patients to
access health care these days. Thanks to the recession, more and more men,
women and families are losing their health insurance or simply can’t
afford their co-pays at the doctor.

The last thing anyone needs is yet another barrier standing in the way
of health care, especially when that barrier takes the form of threats,
intimidation, and physical barriers to clinics. Yet for patients
visiting any one of the numerous reproductive health care clinics
across New York City, that’s exactly what they may run into. Luckily,
thanks to the courageous leadership of City Council Speaker Christine
Quinn, the New York City Council is reviewing legislation that will
protect both patients and clinics from the vicious harassment that yes,
still goes on in our city every day. It’s called the Clinic Access
Bill, and will among other things protect clinic patients and staff
from malicious harassment. Now, more than ever, is the time to pass
this legislation. Because we’re not just talking about rights and
policy: the health of women and their families is at stake.

It’s no secret that we’re in a recession. The national unemployment
rate is the highest it’s been since 1983, and New York’s unemployment
funds have been exhausted, leaving our state to rely on federal aid to
help the growing ranks of jobless New Yorkers. Anecdotally, our clinic
is hearing stories of women who are putting off visiting their own
doctors so they can afford to take their child to the pediatrician, or
can pay their rent and groceries that month.

Ironically, reproductive health care is all too often women’s primary
health care. It’s where they get their checkups, where they go for
cancer screenings, and often the one doctor women go to before all
others. Many reproductive health care clinics are safety net providers,
and make quality medical care available for free or for a sliding scale

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So that’s why I find it so worrying when I see zealous protestors
outside of the clinic I work at, and outside of our partner clinics
across the city. That’s why it’s a problem when protestors block the
access to clinic doors, or grab patients on their way into an
appointment, or as happened at one clinic in the Bronx, knock the
clinic staff down on their way to work. The worst part about it is that
these protestors represent a small minority, Most New Yorkers are
pro-choice, and support keeping clinics and patients safe from

To be sure, everyone has a right to his or her opinion, and to make
that opinion known. But there’s a difference between freedom of speech
and harassment. Intimidation has never been a constitutionally
protected right.

So thank you, Christine Quinn and the New York City Council, for
helping to make sure this important legislation passes. Because in
these troubled times we should be making sure there are as few barriers
as possible to people seeking care. Our health and lives depend on it.

This post originally ran in El Diario.

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