New proposal does not include buffer zone definition

HARRISBURG, Jan. 7, 2016 – Recognizing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike a controversial Massachusetts “buffer zone” statute designed to protect women visiting reproductive clinics, state Sen. Larry Farnese today re-introduced his proposal to help protect patients from harassment, intimidation or deliberate obstruction at these health care facilities.

The Philadelphia Democrat said his new proposal, Senate Bill 1105, is modeled after the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act and is designed to prevent confrontations between those who don’t like a clinic’s services and the people who use them for dependable information and care.

“My new proposal makes it clear that people who try to intimidate or hurt women entering a reproductive health care clinic will be punished, ordered to pay a hefty fine, and spend a lot of time in jail,” Sen. Farnese said.

“If anyone hurts a patient while attempting to ‘counsel’ them, they would be charged with a third-degree felony. If a protestor causes a patient’s death, that person could go to jail for the rest of their life.”

Farnese’s SB 1105 provides for safe access to reproductive health care facilities, prevents harassment and intimidation of patients and clinic staff, and combats deliberate obstruction of clinic entrances.

Violations of the act may result in criminal and/or civil penalties. Injunctive relief would also be available.

  • If there is bodily injury to a patient, third-degree felony charge would be applicable
  • Serious bodily injury could lead to a first-degree felony charge
  • Death could bring a maximum sentence of life in prison
  • If there is no injury but there was harassment, a first-time offender could be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor and the possibility of as much as two years in prison and a $10,000 fine; a second offense could bring first-degree misdemeanor and up to 5 years in prison plus a $50,000 fine.

Women’s Law Project, the statewide organization known for its work to promote equality and defend reproductive freedom in Pennsylvania and the U.S., said it welcomes Sen. Farnese’s new proposal.

“Counting the recent killings in Colorado Springs, there have been 11 murders and 26 attempted murders in attacks targeting reproductive health care providers in the United States and Canada,” said Sue Frietsche, senior staff attorney, Women’s Law Project. “We’re grateful to Senator Farnese for taking the lead on strengthening Pennsylvania’s laws so women’s health care providers and their patients are better protected.”

Farnese said he’s continuing his work to protect women entering these clinics because they need it.

“I have escorted women through crowds of protesters and I have witnessed the verbal and physical harassment that has been angrily directed towards them,” Farnese said. “The walk from the curb to the clinic door should never be the last one of their lives, so people need to know that if they hurt someone they can be punished with felony crimes and big fines.”

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