By Naeisha Rose
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit Tuesday against 14 anti-choice protesters who have threatened patients of the Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica.
The harassment started in 2012, and came to a head Oct. 29, 2016, according to Schneiderman, when a protester harassed a woman who had her child with her as she approached the center, located at 147-32 Jamaica Ave. The individuals are being charged with violating the New York City Clinic Access Act.
“The tactics used to harass and menace Choices’ patients, families, volunteers and staff are not only horrifying – they’re illegal,” said Schneiderman. “The law guarantees women the right to control their own bodies and access the reproductive health care they need, without obstruction. We’ll do what it takes to protect those rights for women across New York.”
Choices Women’s Medical Center provides gynecological, reproductive and behavioral health services. It was one of the first clinics in New York City to provide abortions since it was legalized in New York State in the 1970s, according to the center’s founder, Merle Hoffman.
“I have been on the front lines of this struggle for women’s rights and women’s freedom for nearly 50 years,” Hoffman said. “I have endured bomb threats, death threats, multiple evictions and the maiming and murder of colleagues and friends. And I am still here, because I made a vow to my first patient.”
According to Schneiderman’s lawsuit, “protesters have subjected incoming patients to a barrage of unwanted physical conduct, as well as verbal abuse, threats of harm, and lies about the clinic’s hours and its services.”
Allegedly leading a faction of the protests is Pastor Kenneth Griepp of Church at the Rock, located at 1288 East 92nd St. in Canarsie, Brooklyn. The lawsuit contends he has gathered with up to 23 people to rally outside the center every Saturday since 2012.
Some of the current and former members of the church who are being sued are Ronald George, Patricia Musco, Randall Doe, Osayinwense Okuonghae, Anne Kaminsky, Brian George, Sharon Doe, Deborah Ryan, Angela Braxton and Jasmine Lalande.
Dorothy Rothar, a Sister of St. Joseph, who works with Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, an anti-abortion religious organization in Brooklyn, according to the Precious Infants website, is also being sued.
The remaining defendants are Prisca Joseph and Scott Fitchett.
Joseph allegedly colluded “with clinic escorts in an effort to get close to patients as they approach the clinic,” and she allegedly followed them closely and harassed “patients, clinic escorts and staff as they approach the clinic’s entrance,” according to the suit.
Fitchett is accused of standing outside the clinic chanting “murderer, murderer”’ at approaching individuals and filming patients. according to the suit.
Pastor Griepp and Sister Rothar could not be reached for comment.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose