"Face" Time: Men Convicted Of Blocking Abortion Clinic Access

A little good news on the abortion front for once: for the first time in New York City history, two men have been convicted of blocking a clinic entrance. And challenges to yesterday's disturbing Oklahoma laws are just beginning.

According to Colin Moynihan of the Times, Richard R. Dugan and Theodore A. Puckett (not pictured) were convicted yesterday of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances (FACE) Act for obstructing two entrances to the Planned Parenthood-operated Margaret Sanger Clinic on Mott and Bleecker Streets, thus keeping out both staff and patients. Sentencing is scheduled for June 10 — Dugan and Puckett could get up to six months in jail and a $10,000 fine. This is the first criminal prosecution under the FACE Act, which went into effect in 1994.

Planned Parenthood's President and CEO Joan Malin said in a statement,

The Court has sent an important message - that the women, men and teens of New York City shall not be impeded in accessing reproductive health care, and that blockading entrances to health care clinics will not be tolerated. [...] Although we vigorously defend the right of anyone to peacefully voice their opinion and to hold peaceful protest, when the line is crossed into acts of intimidation, violence and/or blocking access to our health centers, we rely on local law enforcement officials, the FBI and the US Attorneys office to take action and bring violators of city, state and federal law to justice. We thank them for their vigilance in upholding these laws.

Predictably, Dugan and Puckett had the opposite reaction. Dugan, who represented himself, said in court, "They were going in there to kill babies, and we were stopping that. So I think the whole case should just be dismissed right now."

In other good news for reproductive freedom, the Center for Reproductive Rights is suing to block enforcement of one of the abortion laws that went into effect yesterday in Oklahoma. That law would require that before each abortion, doctors perform an ultrasound, describe the ultrasound image in detail to the patient, and position the display screen where the patient can see it. The law makes no exception in cases of rape or incest. The Center for Reproductive Rights said in a press release,

The Center argues that the ultrasound requirement profoundly intrudes upon a patient's privacy and is the most extreme ultrasound law in the country. The law forces a woman to hear information that she may not want to hear and that may not be relevant to her medical care. It also dangerously discounts her abilities to make healthy decisions about her own life by forcing her to hear information when she's objected. In addition, the statute interferes with the doctor-patient relationship-potentially damaging it-by compelling doctors to deliver unwanted speech.

The lawsuit doesn't cover the new law protecting doctors who withhold information about birth defects from prospective parents to keep them from having abortions. So although today brings some hopeful developments on the pro-choice front, lying to patients is still a-okay in Oklahoma, for now.

Two Convicted Of Denying Access To Abortion Clinic [NYT]
Abortion-Rights Group Sues To Block Okla. Bill [AP, via Brattleboro Reformer]
Center For Reproductive Rights Files Lawsuit Against Oklahoma's Ultrasound Requirement [Center for Reproductive Rights]

Earlier: Oklahoma Passes Strictest Abortion Law, Protects Doctors Who Lie To Women