AG James Files Lawsuit to End Harassment of Women Entering Planned Parenthood Center
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today filed a federal lawsuit against two anti-choice protesters who repeatedly violated federal, state, and local clinic access laws through obstructive and violent actions against the patients, escorts, and health center staff at a Planned Parenthood location in New York City. Attorney General James charges Bevelyn Beatty and Edmee Chavannes with blocking access to Planned Parenthood of Greater New York’s (PPGNY) Manhattan Health Center and threatening those entering with violence and other intimidating and disruptive behavior that intentionally presented a direct risk to the health and safety of patients and staff. This is the latest legal action that Attorney General James has taken in her continued national fight to ensure women’s reproductive health care is not stifled or infringed upon in any way.
“For almost 50 years, Roe v. Wade has made clear the right of women to control their own bodies,” said Attorney General James. “Despite the clear protections under the law, these individuals used violent and illegal tactics to harass, threaten, and block women from entering Planned Parenthood. Let me be very clear: no person, no business, and no government body has the right to deny or limit a woman’s access to an abortion, and I will continue to do everything within my legal power to support the reproductive rights of women.”
The lawsuit — filed today in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, along with a motion for a preliminary injunction that seeks to immediately halt the two defendants’ behavior — alleges that, on numerous occasions throughout 2020, Beatty and Chavannes attempted to impede access to reproductive health care services by subjecting incoming patients and escorts to a barrage of unwanted physical contact, verbal abuse, and threats of harm. The suit maintains that during the first peak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in New York City, these individuals weaponized the threat of the virus to further intimidate and interfere with the local Planned Parenthood’s operations. Beatty and Chavannes purposely put patients, staff, and escorts at risk by refusing to comply with local and state distance and mask mandates related to COVID-19, and continued to accost people entering the health center at close range, while mocking staff and escorts’ mask usage and desire to avoid close contact with them. Ultimately, these individuals forced patients and staff to choose between obtaining and providing reproductive health care, or protecting themselves from exposure to the virus. Beatty and Chavannes have repeated these actions outside Planned Parenthood as recently as this past weekend.
In a further display of their illegal harassment and violent actions, in June 2020, Beatty and Chavannes organized an anti-abortion protest outside PPGNY’s Manhattan Health Center, where they physically and verbally assaulted multiple volunteers and members of health center staff. Beatty was captured on video slamming a health center staff member’s hand in a door, causing her to need x-rays; repeatedly shoving a volunteer patient escort attempting to enter the facility; slapping a different volunteer in the face; and threatening to knock an escort unconscious. Chavannes screamed threats in a staff member’s face while maskless, and both individuals physically blocked the main and side entrances of the health center to prevent patients and staff from entering.
Today’s lawsuit and motion for a preliminary injunction seeks to prohibit Beatty and Chavannes, as well as anyone acting in concert with them, from participating in protest activity within an 18 foot by 30 foot area of the Planned Parenthood of New York City’s Manhattan Health Center’s premises, as well as seeks to immediately halt the using of threats, intimidation, or physical tactics to interfere with individuals seeking reproductive health services from the health center.
Attorney General James brings these claims under the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, the New York state Clinic Access Act, and the New York City Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act, all of which prohibit obstructing access to reproductive health clinics.