By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A Sunset Park women’s health center that has been at the center of the abortion debate in Brooklyn for more than two decades will no longer be performing the procedure.
The surprising announcement by Terry Lazar, the owner of the Ambulatory Surgery Center, 313 43rd St., that the clinic is no longer an abortion provider was hailed by the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn and pro-life groups but was scorned by pro-choice advocates.
Lazar told the New York Daily News in an article published on Oct. 1 that the health center, which performed other types of procedures in addition to abortions, was the target of pro-life protesters for many years and that it was adversely affecting business.
“You had protesters with signs and banners yelling at people telling them they were baby killers,” Lazar told the Daily News. Patients and doctors alike found it harder and harder to cross the picket line, he stated. “We would have gone out of business,” he was quoted as saying.
Among the protesters were members of Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, an anti-abortion organization led by the Rev. Msgr. Philip Reilly, a Catholic priest. The Helpers group frequently held prayer vigils outside the clinic.
The clinic is now operating under a new name, New York Center for Specialty Surgery, and its list of services no longer includes abortions.
Catholic Church leaders are hailing the dramatic change and are praising the role Reilly and his group played in the outcome.
“The people of Sunset Park deserve high quality healthcare and we are thankful for the years of dedication of Msgr. Reilly and his Helpers,” Stefanie Gutierrez, spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn said. “Msgr. Reilly stood outside of what once was the largest abortion provider in Brooklyn, from the hottest days in summer to the coldest of winter. He was steadfast in his prayers for an end to abortion in this facility, and we are thrilled they have been answered," she said.
Pro-choice advocates expressed disappointment and anger over the loss of abortion services at the facility.
“It is deeply disturbing to learn that this decision appears to reflect the harmful impact of decades of anti-choice harassment of women and health care providers, not the ongoing health care needs of women in this community. As anti-abortion activists claim responsibility and celebrate what they see as a victory, we are thinking about all of the women in Brooklyn who have lost one of the few facilities that offered the full range of reproductive health care options,” Andrea Miller, president of NARL Pro-Choice New York, said.
“This is a stark reminder that even in New York City, we are not immune to the coercive tactics of the anti-choice movement, whose clear mission is to deny women both the right to make medical decisions about their pregnancies and access to the full range of health services they need to exercise that right,” Miller said.