The state of New York has filed a lawsuit against a pair of pro-life activists that it claims have blocked access to a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic and harassed the staff and patients.
New York Attorney General Letitia Jamesfiled the complaint Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Bevelyn Beatty and Edmee Chavannes.
According to the complaint, Beatty and Chavannes engaged in “obstructive, threatening, harassing, and violent activity” against the Planned Parenthood of Greater New York’s Manhattan Health Center in New York City.
The suit alleges that the two frequently held protests at the clinic throughout 2020 by standing near the entrances and shouting at close range to staff and patients as they access the facility.
The filing claims that Beatty and Chavannes pounded on and screamed through the clinic’s glass windows.
Furthermore, the legal filing states that Beatty slammed a staff member’s hand into a door, slapped a volunteer in the face and threatened to knock a clinic escort unconscious.
Chavannes was accused of screaming threats in a staff member’s face while maskless.
They were both accused of physically blocking the health center's main and side entrances and preventing staff and patients from entering.
The attorney general’s office accused the two women of weaponizing the threat of the coronavirus to impede access to the facility since they did not wear face masks.
The complaint seeks to force the two activists to pay compensatory damages for each violation of state law, civil penalties authorized under the law and legal costs the state incurred to carry out the lawsuit.
The complaint also asks for the right to secure a buffer zone around the abortion clinic to guarantee safe access to the facility.
“Despite the clear protections under the law, these individuals used violent and illegal tactics to harass, threaten and block women from entering Planned Parenthood,”James said in a statement.
“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.”
As black pro-life activists have long voiced concern with Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger's history as a proponent of eugenics, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York announced last summer the removal of Sanger's name from its Manhattan clinic because of the woman's “racist legacy."
Beatty and Chavannes, who are black and founded At The Well Ministries, had a run-in with the law last summer when they were arrested for defacing Black Lives Matters murals in New York City.
Viral videos of them from last July showed them smearing black paint over a yellow BLM street mural. They called the BLM organization “a domestic terrorist organization.”
“Vote the ungodly, demonic, anti-Christ people out of this nation,” Beatty was quoted as saying at the time, adding that onlookers should “stand with your police force, vote for Trump, vote Republican, vote for Christians and stand up Christians.”
The Staten Island Advance reported at the time that Beatty and Chavannes were charged with criminal mischief but released later that day.
In 2019, New York passed the Reproductive Health Act, which codified the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade and expanded abortion access.
Last month, the state was sued over the law by a group of residents. An attorney for the plaintiffs claims that the law has “dangerous ambiguities” regarding domestic violence issues and how abortion is deemed medically necessary.
The lawyer argued that the law “eliminated all criminal penalties for the killing of an unborn child,” meaning there’s not a “separate homicide charge for the murder of a wanted, near term child.”
This is not the first time Attorney General James came to the defense of an abortion clinic.
She defended a 15-foot buffer zone in front of an abortion clinic in Rochester. In January 2020, a judge ruled that the city could continue to enforce a 2005 order that established a sidewalk “buffer zone” outside a local Planned Parenthood facility.
According to James’ office, she is also litigating a case involving the Choices Women’s Medical Center in Queens.