New York, October 22, 2012 (LifeSiteNews) – New York City will recruit and train “escorts” to volunteer at abortion facilities throughout the city, New York City Council Speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn announced Friday. Starting November 1, the escorts will guide women past protesters at abortion centers, making it easier for them to access abortion.

“Offensive actions against a woman’s right to choose will not be tolerated in our city in any borough or any neighborhood,” said Quinn, who announced the city-backed escort initiative at a City Hall press conference alongside local abortion activists.

The escorts are being recruited through the city’s website and by e-mail. They will be trained by Planned Parenthood and the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) at City Hall on October 28 and 29.  Planned Parenthood already has an escort program in place, but recent growth in the number of protests and vigils outside abortion facilities inspired officials to seek an expansion of the program.

Earlier this month, the New York Daily News reported that repeated protests led a prominent Brooklyn abortion clinic to shut its doors for good.

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In reaction to the escort initiative, a pro-life vigil that had been previously scheduled for Saturday at a Queens abortion facility turned into a protest.  Nearly 100 demonstrators carried signs, prayed and sang hymns outside the “Choices” abortion center. Some had harsh words for Speaker Quinn.

“It doesn’t make sense. She’s supposed to be my representative,” said Monsignor Philip Reilly, a Catholic priest who led the protest. He called for her to depart City Council, saying, “If she wants to do that, she should resign.”

Merle Hoffman, who owns the “Choices” abortion center, mounted a counter-demonstration with about 15 people. “Women should have the right to make their choices without people praying for their souls,” Hoffman told the Daily News.

Even though Quinn maintains that city money won’t be used to fund the escort project, some say the Council is sending the wrong message by getting involved at all.  “This says it’s okay to have an abortion, and it’s not okay,” said Antoinette Wolske, a retired nurse from Queens who participated in Saturday’s protest. “We should not have this idea promoted.”