Attorney General James Stops Harassment at Manhattan Planned Parenthood Health Center
Anti-Choice Protesters Prohibited from Breaching Designated Buffer
Zone Around Clinic, Must Pay $5,000 for Any Future Violations
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James has secured an agreement to end the harassing and obstructive behavior of two anti-choice protesters at a Planned Parenthood location in New York City. The agreement negotiated by Attorney General James stipulates that the protesters, Bevelyn Beatty and Edmee Chavannes, will not enter the designated “buffer zone” established around the main entrances to Planned Parenthood of Greater New York’s (PPGNY) Manhattan Health Center. This resolves a February 2021 lawsuit filed by Attorney General James against Beatty and Chavannes over repeated violations of federal, state, and local clinic access laws through obstructive and violent actions against the patients, escorts, and health center staff at PPGNY.
“Women have the clear and absolute right to make decisions about their own bodies, and they have the right to make those decisions without fear of violent and illegal tactics used against them,” said Attorney General James. “As a result of this agreement, these individuals will no longer be able to harass, threaten, and block women from entering Planned Parenthood. I will continue to use every tool in my legal arsenal to ensure women’s reproductive health care is not stifled or infringed upon in any way.”
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. During the first peak of the 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.
At the height of their campaign of violence and intimidation, Beatty and Chavannes called for other anti-abortion activists to, in their words, “terrorize” staff and patients at PPGNY's Manhattan Health Center, and 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.
The agreement announced today prohibits Beatty and Chavannes from entering an 18 foot by 30 foot area around PPGNY’s Manhattan Health Center’s premises. Any future violations of the agreement will result in a $5,000 fine per violation, as well as all attorneys' fees and related costs incurred by the Office of the Attorney General in relation to the enforcement of the injunction, and the possibility of civil and criminal contempt.
In separate but similar cases involving “buffer zones” outside abortion clinics, Attorney General James successfully argued, in January 2020, that women in Rochester seeking to have an abortion should be able to do so without being harassed, threatened, or blocked before entering a clinic when a district court judge dismissed a lawsuit by anti-abortion activists seeking to bypass a 15-foot “buffer zone” outside a local Planned Parenthood facility. Additionally, Attorney General James is 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.
This case was led by Senior Counsel Sandra Pullman of the Civil Rights Bureau and Assistant Attorney General Heather McKay of the Rochester Regional Office, with assistance from Investigators Michelle Ortiz and Emily Kokotos, and Intern Kevin Yang — all under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Jessica Clarke. The Civil Rights Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux, and under the oversight of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.