Attorney General James Secures Victory For Women Seeking Abortions In Rochester

U.S. District Court Judge Dismisses Case by Anti-Choice Activists Seeking
to Harass Women Entering Rochester Planned Parenthood Facility

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today released the following statement after the Honorable David Larimer of the Western District of New York issued a decision authorizing the City of Rochester to continue to enforce a 2005 order establishing a sidewalk “buffer zone” outside a local Planned Parenthood facility:

“In the nearly 50 years since Roe v. Wade, anti-choice activists have attempted to inflict their will on women’s bodies, but this decision is another confirmation by the courts that no one has the right to interfere with women’s reproductive choices. Despite their denials, these anti-abortion activists attempted to harass, threaten, and block women from entering a local Planned Parenthood and strip them of the right to make a deeply personal choice. To be clear, no one has that right, which is why my office will continue to use every legal tool at its disposal to prioritize the reproductive rights of women. We thank the court for its decision and for ensuring Roe v. Wade is enforced in Rochester without interruption.”

Debora McDell-Hernandez, Senior Director of Public and Community Affairs of Planned Parenthood of Rochester added, “Planned Parenthood is very appreciative of the attention that the New York State Attorney General's Office offered to this case. This positive outcome will help ensure that we are able to continue to provide a welcoming and safe environment to patients and staff. Accessibility to quality, affordable health care is our priority.”

In 1999, the Office of the New York Attorney General won a decision — in New York ex rel. Spitzer v. Operation Rescue Nat’l — establishing a buffer zone prohibiting protests, picketing, and the blocking of entry within 15 feet of “entrances and driveways of facilities that perform abortions in the Western District of New York,” including Planned Parenthood of Rochester.

Despite this ruling, two years ago, anti-abortion activist Jim Havens and his group, ROC Love Will End Abortion, began protesting women who were entering the Planned Parenthood of Rochester facility. When they were prohibited from continuing their protests within 15 feet of the facility, Havens and his group filed a lawsuit against both the State of New York and the City of Rochester, asserting that they were being improperly prevented from conducting their protests.

Under Attorney General James’ leadership, the Office of the New York Attorney General opposed the motion for a preliminary injunction and moved to dismiss the lawsuit, stating that Havens and his group were indisputably acting “in active concert or participation” with the original defendants to the state lawsuit.

Yesterday afternoon, Judge Larimer denied the motion for a preliminary injunction and dismissed the lawsuit in its entirety, stating that Havens and his group were indisputably acting “in active concert or participation” with the original defendants to the state lawsuit. The court took particular note of Havens’ and the original named defendants' “shared common goal of deterring ‘abortion-minded’ women from seeking services at PPR,” and further held that Havens’ legal arguments were based on “wishful thinking on [their] part,” concluding, “Any suggestion that plaintiffs acted ‘independent’ from these Named Defendants…is not only disingenuous, but is also belied by plaintiffs’ own allegations.”

Separately, Attorney General James is also litigating the appeal in People ex rel. James v. Griepp, to ensure that women who enter the Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens are not harassed, obstructed, or threatened by protesters.