September 24, 2008

The New York Civil Liberties Union today called on the City Council to pass proposed legislation that would close perceived loopholes in current law and safeguard women’s access to reproductive health care clinics while protecting the protest rights of abortion opponents.

The legislation, introduced today by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, would strengthen the existing clinic access law, enacted in 1995, that criminalizes the blocking of clinic entrances.

“This proposal will add teeth to the city law, by making it clearer what is prohibited and who may bring a complaint,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director. “This will allow our local law enforcement to better safeguard women’s rights to access critical services, and to better protect doctors and clinic staff from violent or threatening behavior.”

The proposal strengthens the existing law in the following ways:

  • Makes it a crime to knowingly block or obstruct a clinic entrance. Currently, the law requires proof that a person blocking an entrance intends to prevent someone from obtaining or rendering reproductive health serves.
  • Extends the protection to driveways and parking lots.
  • Makes clear that the law prohibits not just physical contact but also obstruction of entrances.
  • Makes it clearer that clinics themselves and their staff can file complaints.
  • Does not disturb existing protections for peaceful protest.

“We respect the right of abortion opponents to express their views and believe the law must respect those rights,” Lieberman said. “But the city also has an obligation to protect women seeking reproductive health care and the doctors and staff who provide that care. We urge the City Council to pass this sensible legislation, and once it’s passed, we expect the NYPD to ensure the law is fully enforced.”