What does a rock-n-roll themed deli have to do with reproductive health?  At first, it would seem that the two have nothing in common.  So, it would come as a surprise to hear that a Portland deli is shutting down because of persistent harassment from anti-abortion protestors.

 

For three years, Mike’s Deli has been a favorite place of Portlanders.  It has dollar coffee and breakfast sandwiches for just $1.99.  As regular customer Katie Dionne told Bangor Daily News, “It’s a rare find for Portland.”

 

Unfortunately for owner Mike Fink, the deli happens to be located on the same street as a Planned Parenthood.  In a world where women’s reproductive health rights are respected, the location of a clinic shouldn’t matter to a sandwich shop.  Unfortunately for Fink and his patrons, we don’t live in that world.  The Planned Parenthood clinic was targeted by anti-choice protestors who badger people trying to enter or leave the clinic.  It is not too surprising that business at Mike’s Deli began to suffer when the protests started.

 

“I decided kids holding signs of dead babies isn’t good for business,” said Fink.

 

But it isn’t just the loss of business which is causing Fink to shut down his deli.  He says that the emotional toll from dealing with the protestors has been too much for him: “I’m disappointed and tired of being upset.”

 

For his credit, Fink didn’t just take the harassment without a fight. Though he says he was never very political, Fink began organized pro-choice rallies in opposition to the anti-abortion protests.   He gave out free coffee and sandwiches to people who came to support reproductive health rights.  Fink has also been avid in his support of a 35-foot “patient safety zone” around the Portland Planned Parenthood.  The decision to implement the buffer zone won’t come until fall.

 

This story has gotten a lot of media attention because we don’t normally think about local businesses suffering as a result of anti-choice harassment.  Yes, it is sad that Mike’s Deli is closing because of protests.  But the real tragedy is for all of the people who have suffered harm (emotional and physical) as a result of the protests. If the anti-abortion protesters are so extreme that people won’t even get a cheap sandwich on the same street, then imagine how intimidating it is for the people who actually are going into the Planned Parenthood clinic.

 

Yes, it is important to uphold our First Amendment right to protest.  But that right shouldn’t mean infringing on the rights of others who are trying to receive or give healthcare.

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