Protesters cuffed in battle over Lower Manhattan abortion clinic

A clash between pro-life protesters and abortion defenders over the picket of a Lower Manhattan Planned Parenthood ended in multiple arrests Saturday.

An ongoing war raging over a Lower East Side abortion clinic came to a boiling point on Aug. 7. For years, conservative members of the Basilica of Old St. Pat’s on Mott and Prince streets have pushed back against the area’s Planned Parenthood on several Saturdays each month. The group, previously viewed as the society’s fringe, gained new traction after the Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade in June.

With patients now expected to travel to safe states such as New York in order to access legal and trustworthy abortions, pro-choice supporters are concerned these religious missions will do severe damage to the psyches of those looking for care. With that in mind, a legion or women and their supporters have launched counter-protests against the church and its parishioners who have previously targeted Planned Parenthood’s patients.

Photo by Adrian Childress

The first major clash came last month on July 2 — shortly after the SCOTUS decision — and although there were no arrests, members of the New York City Police Department joined the fray, shunting protesters in an attempt to keep the two groups separated. One month later, those seeking to protect the clinic from another demonstration encircled the house of worship in an effort to block the preachers from leaving.

Chants of “You don’t care if people die!” rang out from counter-protesters who marched around the premises with signs held high. Things soon spilled into the street, with police once again attempting to separate the two sides. 

A group of abortion defenders tried to prevent the NYPD from intervening by blocking the roadway with their bodies. Sitting cross-legged outside the church, the individuals looked to block a police van from pulling out. After several warnings, officers cuffed five protesters for blocking vehicular traffic.

Photo by Adrian Childress

Outside Planned Parenthood, pro-choice protesters used large umbrellas to obscure the religious group from view of patients who entered the clinic. For those fighting for abortion rights, the morning saw them put their bodies on the line in order to give others control over theirs.

NYC for Abortion Rights, the group that organized the counter-protest, shared that by 7 p.m. Saturday all protesters were released from jail.

“This morning’s clinic defense was tough,” the group wrote on social media. “The NYPD brutalized and arrested some of us, and antis were wily. We’re working on jail support now…We effectively blocked the antis and kept the sidewalks and streets as clear as we could. A beautiful sight.”

In response to the incident, a police source stated that the individuals disregarded multiple lawful orders given to them. The source also said that the arrests were made since the obstruction prevented officers from carrying out their duty. Four individuals were released on desk appearance tickets while the fifth, a minor, was released into the custody of their parents. Charges included obstructing governmental administration and disorderly conduct.