By Marc Landis
In New York City, many people assume that the battle for reproductive choice takes place in “flyover states”—and certainly not in our own backyard! Yet these assumptions were proven incorrect again just a few days ago.
Last week, the Daily News reported on the closing of a surgical center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, reportedly due to anti-abortion protests. Dr. Terry Lazar, an owner of the surgical center, told the Daily News, “It was getting more and more difficult. Doctors were getting harassed, and patients were getting harassed. It was a decision we finally had to make.” Although Dr. Lazar was later quoted by WNYC as stating that the closure was for “economic reasons” and was unrelated to protests, the bottom line is that this surgical center has closed, while another surgical center, under out-of-state ownership, will not provide abortion services. The protesters held a celebratory mass at a church located down the block.
Reading this story led me to flash back nearly 20 years, back to the spring of 1994, when Lincoln Women’s Services was denied a renewal lease at 1995 Broadway, in the old Jamaica Savings Bank building. Then, like now, the landlord denied that the protests had anything to do with the decision. I was the newly elected president of Community Free Democrats, and our Democratic club activists worked closely with then-Assembly Member Scott Stringer, then-District Leader Eric Schneiderman and others on this issue—first, to raise public awareness and to bring public pressure on the landlord to reconsider its decision; later, I worked with the owners to assist them in seeking alternative space on Manhattan’s West Side.
Earlier this year, just weeks after Rush Limbaugh labeled Sandra Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” for daring to speak up about health insurance coverage for reproductive choice, I was among a handful of men who worked with Unite Women New York to organize a march and rally in support of reproductive rights along with other issues such as education, workplace equality and protecting women and children from domestic violence. Thousands of activists of all ages marched from Washington Square Park to Foley Square as part of a national call to action.
The brazenness of the anti-choice forces across the nation cannot be underestimated. This year, we have seen a Virginia governor who wants to deter abortions by requiring medically unnecessary and invasive procedures, a vice-presidential candidate who sponsored legislation to define life as beginning at conception, and a U.S. Senate candidate in Missouri who believes that rape victims cannot get pregnant. Still, when we see medical clinics closing here in New York City because abortion is one of the medical options offered to patients, we are reminded that the struggle to protect reproductive rights must begin here at home.
Marc Landis is a candidate for New York City Council and an Upper West Side Democratic District Leader.
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