but No Thanks
Planned Parenthood asks supportive counterprotesters to stand
anti-abortion protesters who have appeared every Friday afternoon
for a dozen years in front of Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood’s
Troy site have become such a fixture around Monument Square
that passersby may not have given them a second thought unless
they found themselves face-to-face with a large color poster
of a dismembered fetus.
It was the routine, unchallenged nature of the protests that
struck an off-chord with a small group of women students from
Russell Sage College as they walked by the scene one day earlier
in the spring. And so a handful of these women—joined by a
few other activist women from the area—started staging counterprotests
at the site on Fridays in support of abortion rights. They
did so for three weeks until they got a plea to stop from
an unexpected source: Planned Parenthood itself.
we appreciate your support of Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood,
we ask that you please discontinue your counter-demonstrations
outside our health center,” a leaflet distributed by Planned
Parenthood staff to the counterprotesters April 28 read in
part (bold type in the original). “Your intentions are honorable,
but your actions have contributed to the increase in hostility
around our building. . . . The protesters want to intimidate
our patients and discourage them from using UHPP services.
Your counterdemonstrations are helping them accomplish that
Planned Parenthood has offered to meet with the counterprotesters
to devise a different way for them to show their support,
said Blue Carreker, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman. Several
of the women, for example, are interested in becoming patient
really do appreciate the fact that women are willing to stand
up for reproductive rights and reproductive choice,” Carreker
said. “But we need to balance that appreciation with concern
for women who want to come in for medical services.”
Laurieellen Mose, a Sage student who’s also a Sage College
employee, said the group will respect Planned Parenthood’s
request, but finds it disappointing.
understand their point that it is scary to their patients
going to use their services, but I feel that it’s defeating
our cause—that we were here to support them and we’re not
wanted,” she said.
The Sage women decided to protest on their own initiative,
but Russell Sage College is supporting their decision to do
so. “All our seniors take a course called ‘Women Changing
the World,’ and we’re proud of them when they take that seriously
and are responsible and respectful,” said Sharon Robinson,
dean of Russell Sage College.
The situation became heated April 21 when the two groups merged
as they circled Monument Square in front of the office building
at 200 Broadway that houses Planned Parenthood and several
other tenants, said group members. The groups exchanged words
and waved their signs at each other, prompting the Troy police
to stand by April 28 and tell protesters on both sides that
they had to keep moving as long as they were carrying signs.
Troy Police Captain Paul Bouchard cited state court decisions
governing the obstruction of sidewalks in preventing the protesters
from standing still. Anti-abortion protester Frank Murray
complied with the request, as did the others, but questioned
the legal interpretation offered by Bouchard. A spokesman
for the New York state attorney general’s office said that
without knowing all the facts, he could not comment on Bouchard’s
interpretation of court rulings.
The anti-abortion protesters are a “spontaneous, ad hoc group,”
do not see the killing of any human being as the solution
to any problem,” he said. As for the counterprotesters, he
said, “We don’t seek conflict; we respect their right to express
themselves just as we respect our right to express ourselves.”
The counterprotesters said their three-week stint made a point.
just a citizen here of the city of Troy and I’m delighted
to see that there are women here protesting,” said Gerri Fitzgerald,
59, who joined the students April 28. “I’m old enough to remember
when abortion was illegal, and I don’t want to see it go back.”
For the time being, it’s likely that the anti-abortion protests
will continue unopposed and—if last Friday’s demonstration
was typical—largely ignored by passersby. Debbie Dwyer, who
works in a branch of the attorney general’s office in the
same building as Planned Parenthood, watched the demonstrators
during a cigarette break and recalled arriving almost a year
ago for her job interview. As she prepared to get out of her
parked car, she found a graphic sign of a dismembered fetus
being waved outside of her car window.
found that in bad taste,” she said. “It freaked me out.”
Since then, she has had frequent chats with one of the anti-abortion
protesters, an older man who routinely carries a statue of
the Virgin Mary. They get along fine, Dwyer said, as long
as they avoid the topic of the protests.
a very sweet man,” Dwyer said. “We talk every week. And we
don’t talk about that.”
Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that
Iraq is getting more dangerous, but not for the
expected reasons. According to their report, American
gang symbols are appearing all over Iraq. Defense
Department gang detective Scott Barfield says
he has personally identified more than 300 American
soldiers with gang affiliations from the Latin
Kings to the Gangster Disciple Nation. Law enforcement
agents in Chicago report having found gang members
with flak jackets they say were sent to them by
contacts in the military.
the White House Correspondents Dinner Saturday
night, George W. Bush reportedly was left frowning
after comedian Stephen Colbert’s act. Colbert,
the featured speaker, reminded the president that
his approval ratings are based in reality, and
therefore he should ignore them as “reality has
a well-known liberal bias.” Colbert did also get
in a few shots at the press, saying he was surrounded
by the liberal media except for Fox News. “Fox
believes in presenting both sides of the story,”
he said. “The president’s side and the vice president’s
Sure You Don’t Want Us?
Monday, May 1, a million immigrants walked out
of their jobs to protest the U.S. House of Representatives
bill that would make being an undocumented immigrant
or helping one a felony. Across the country, many
businesses and schools simply closed. In Albany,
Assemblyman Peter Rivera (D-Bronx) walked out
along with 25 of his colleagues, basically shutting
down the Legislature.
of the Beast
Denver Post is reporting that authorities
in Colorado are concerned there may be violence
on June, 6, 2006. Some officials say they expect
the date could trigger actions by anarchist organizations,
religious groups or even terrorists. Some religious
Web sites warn that “2006 AD is the year of the
beast.” Others, like nationaldayof slayer.org,
take a more positive approach: “The objective
of this day is for everyone within earshot to
understand that it is the National Day of [metal
band] Slayer. National holidays in America aren’t
just about celebrating; they’re about forcing
it upon non-participants.”
We Count on Your Vote?
County legislators make their voting-machine preference known
April 27, after months of delay, legal action by the Department
of Justice for failure to comply with the Help America Vote
Act, and outcry from voter-rights groups across the state,
New York State’s Board of Elections got one step closer to
choosing new voting machines, and announced its standards
for certifying voting machines.
Some of the new standards include ensuring that voting machines
supply a paper trail for each vote and that voting-machine
manufacturers must “disclose all political contributions and
litigation relating to issues concerning the operation of
their voting system.”
Meanwhile, some members of the Albany County Legislature have
not been waiting around for the state to tell them which machines
they can choose from. They have introduced legislation to
ensure their voices are heard when it comes time for the county
to select from the certified voting machines.
Last month, three Albany County legislators—John Frederick
(District 6), Raymond Joyce (District 14), and Timothy Nichols
(District 20)—introduced a bill that recommends that the Albany
County Board of Elections choose optical-scan voting machines
over direct-recording electronic, or touch-screen, voting
machines. However, they say they have been met with some resistance
and have been told by other legislators that their action
is premature, as no voting machines have yet been certified
by the state to choose from. At least one County Elections
Commissioner also agrees.
Frederick does not. “Some feel it is premature because there
is no list to select from, but that does not stop me from
believing, after reading lots of articles and hearing anecdotal
stories, that the DRE machines are fraught with problems,”
he asserted. “The optical-scan machines are much less so.”
Frederick said that optical-scan machines, although not perfect,
do not rely on one single button press. “Even if an optical-scan
machine has mechanical or electronic problems, you have a
fail-safe, a paper trail,” said Frederick.
DREs, if they break down, your election is thrown into chaos.
With paper ballots, they can vote all day long. It boils down
to many advantages to optical and many disadvantages to DREs.”
The three legislators say that DRE machines simply do not
ensure that every vote is counted, because they are run on
software that can easily be hacked or programmed with “Easter
eggs,” malicious programming that could change the outcome
of an election.
The three also note that DRE machines cannot satisfy the new
voting-machine requirements because they cannot provide an
uninterrupted paper trail. They warn that a voter can vote
one way and the machine can show a different vote.
said there is another obvious problem with the DRE machines:
cost. “I equate it to car dealers steering consumers towards
more expensive cars. They are going to make the biggest profit
off of an SUV that has a huge markup. Optical scan is a lot
cheaper than DREs, and these companies make both models. They
would like counties to purchase more expensive ones because
they get more profit. These companies have very influential
lobbyists representing them, doing their best to push the
DREs,” said Nichols.
DREs are in fact cheaper per machine than optical scan. However,
polling places would need to replace each of their machines
with a DRE machine, while they would only require one optical-scan
machine per location, as voters merely fill out their voting
cards and do not have to wait for a machine to free up.
Frederick notes that while HAVA money may pay for new machines,
maintenance costs will eventually fall to the state, and DRE
machines require special maintenance training.
The resolution is currently in the county legislature’s law
committee, and the three expect the legislature to consider
the bill in May.
Meanwhile, Albany County legislator Shawn Morse (District
18) proposed a bill that would encourage the State Board of
Elections to certify optical-scan machines. “I’m a strong
supporter of optical-scan machines,” said Morse. “There is
nothing more fundamental than the right to vote. The integrity
of voting has to stay intact so people have faith that their
vote counts. We have so many people that don’t vote. We don’t
want them to think it is a flawed system, that they don’t
have a say.”
Morse said he does not believe any action taken to ensure
every vote is counted in New York could be called premature.
“I don’t think anything is premature when it comes to voting
rights. We have to ensure the system is not flawed. We have
to instill confidence in the voter.”
Albany County BOE Commissioner James Clancy countered that
announcing a preference for a voting machine before it is
certified could actually shake voter’s confidence. “I don’t
want to say I want machine A cause I think machine A is the
best machine for us and then machine A does not get certified.
What kind of confidence is that going to give the voters?”
Morse insisted that it is important for people to have their
voices heard in the voting-machine selection process, because
in the end the two Board of Election commissioners from each
county will get to choose which machines are used. “I don’t
know if I’m a big fan of how the state did this,” he commented.
“I don’t think two people should have a right to choose the
machines that are going to be used.”
Frederick said he respects the independence of the county
commissioners, but “would be confident that they would take
our concerns into serious consideration. . . . They will do
their job diligently and professionally, but I would expect
them to take in concerns of elected officials.”
Whatever is decided, new voting machines will not be ready
in time for the 2006 election. Nichols said he is glad the
state is not rushing to meet a 2006 deadline. “We have to
certify the machines, and we are supposed to test them as
well. I don’t want to have them doing testing at the time
of an election.” New machines reportedly will be in place
in time for the 2007 elections.
Clancy said that he and fellow commissioner John Graziano
will pick the best machine when he receives the final certified
list, and not before then.
Said Nichols, “I will say that there are a lot of unknowns
here, but as far as I’m concerned, the optical-scan are the
best machines for integrity. We as a county can make that
preference known now whether or not they are available to
purchase. If there aren’t any certified it’s a moot point.
But I don’t see that happening.”
Burgess, from the Environmental Awareness Network for Diversity
in Conservation, led elementary school kids from Albany in
planting trees in celebration of Arbor Day. Children from
Arbor Hill Elementary, Giffen Memorial and Thomas O’Brien
Academy of Science and Technology planted a total of 110 seedlings
around their campuses. The EANDC also awarded each school
five copies of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children
from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv.
Something bad happened there.”
—CDTA Route 18 bus, in the midst of a discussion
of haunted houses.
Nader, at a press conference Tuesday supporting
Alice Green, in response to a question about how
Green could convince Mayor Jerry Jennings to participate
in a debate.