On September 24, 2008, the New York City council introduced the Clinic Access Bill to “protect women seeking services at reproductive health care facilities.” The announcement came one day into 40 Days for Life, a national prayer vigil campaign in more than 170 cities to end abortion.
If passed into legislation, the Clinic Access Bill would limit how close pro-lifers could get to facilities in New York and amend the law that requires proof for prosecution. Hence, the City of New York is considering legislation to create a 15 ft. buffer zone that would come between protesters and abortion clinics.
The Clinic Access Bill would make it illegal to “follow and harass any individual or place that individual in fear of physical harm within a 15-foot area around a reproductive health-care facility.” The Bill would also prohibit blocking the entrance or exits of a clinic, parking lots and driveways included.
Said legislation would change how pro-lifers could approach women entering the facilities. The present local law as it exists now requires that prosecutors prove a defendant intended to prevent someone from “obtaining or assisting in reproductive health services.” Under the Clinic Access Bill, proof of intent would no longer be required for prosecution.
The bill would also permit either a clinic or the patient to file a harassment complaint. As it stands now, only the individual’s complaints can be prosecuted.
According to NYC Council Speaker, Christine Quinn who announced the bill,
“No one has the right to decide what a woman can and cannot do to protect her health. With this bill, women can be confident in their health decisions and know that no one can stand in their way….If any woman faces threats, harassment or fear as she approaches a clinic, she will know the city stands behind her in taking action against her harasser.’
David Bereit, national campaign director of 40 Days for Life, countered Speaker Quinn with his own statement, ‘This proposal flies in the face of both freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
This legislation is clearly intended to harass and intimidate peaceful people who are often simply standing and praying; when they do speak to women outside the facilities, they’re not ‘harassing’ anyone,’ he said. ‘The simple fact is that telling people the truth about abortion is detrimental for the clinics’ business.’
Chris Slattery, director of 40 Days for Life campaigns in the Bronx and Queens, agreed. ‘The reason why Dr. Emily’s [Women’s Health Center] wants to stop us is this: 12 to 15 women going into abortion clinics each week turn around in the Bronx alone,’ he said. Dr. Emily’s is an abortion corporation whose Bronx location is the site of a 40 Days for Life prayer vigil.
‘I can say from firsthand experience that the women coming to see us everyday often feel frightened and ashamed,’ Maryana Banzil, executive administrator at Dr. Emily’s, said in a statement. ‘These new protections will give our patients and staff a place to turn to when free speech crosses the line to harassment and will allow us to provide women with the care and compassion that they deserve.”
INTRODUCED CLINIC ACCESS BILL TO HINDER NEW YORK CITY PRO-LIFE ACTIVITY By Eric Maguire, The Bulletin, http://www.thebulletin.us/site/index.cfm?newsid=20144782&BRD=2737&PAG=461&dept_id=576361&rfi=8
View legislation: http://webdocs.nyccouncil.info/textfiles/Int%200826-2008.htm?CFID=2553100&CFTOKEN=68895195
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