Last November, three people were murdered and nine more injured when a man went on a shooting rampage at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. The attack happened amid a sharp increase in threats and violence against abortion providers across the country—including here in Pennsylvania.
“The burden of public safety should not be carried by reproductive healthcare workers alone,” said Amanda Kifferly, Director of Patient Advocacy for The Women’s Centers. “We support legislation that unites the healthcare community with lawmakers and safety officials to criminalize violent acts against doctors, healthcare staff, and patients seeking care at our Centers.”
Pennsylvania abortion providers have been subjected to death threats, obstructive clinic protests, fake anthrax attacks, bomb threats, arson, vandalism, targeted harassment at home and at church, internet stalking, and assault. Counting the tragedy in Colorado Springs, there have been 11 murders and 28 attempted murders in attacks targeting reproductive health care providers in the US and Canada.
Pennsylvania Senator Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) has taken steps to address this crisis by introducing Senate Bill 1105, which would provide freedom of access to reproductive health care facilities. “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,” said Sen. Farnese, who has worked as a volunteer clinic escort.
Modeled on federal legislation, SB 1105 provides for safe access to reproductive health care facilities, prohibits harassment and intimidation of patients and clinic staff, and combats vandalism and deliberate obstruction of clinic entrances.
“In light of the violence, arsons, threats, and terrorism against abortion providers and patients over the past several months, this bill is needed now more than ever,” said David S. Cohen, professor at the Thomas R. Kline School of Law at Drexel University and co-author of Living in the Crosshairs: The Untold Stories of Anti-Abortion Terrorism.
Senate Bill 1105 is part of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health, a package of bills supported by members of the Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature, a bipartisan group of lawmakers focused on addressing the state’s appalling record on women’s health by promoting evidence-based health policy, eliminating workplace discrimination, and other initiatives aimed at advancing women’s health and well-being.
The Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, a group of more than 50 local, state and national organizations calling for evidence-based state policies that support women’s health and economic security in Pennsylvania, enthusiastically supports this new effort to address the troubling rise in anti-abortion violence and harassment.
“This policy is based on the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which is a pretty straightforward concept,” says Tara Murtha, Communications Chair of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health. “Threatening doctors, harassing patients, physically blocking strangers, and vandalizing buildings isn’t acceptable just because the harasser personally disapproves of whatever presumptions they’ve made about their target.”
On Wednesday, January 20 at 10AM, Senator Larry Farnese will participate in a Twitter Townhall Q&A about clinic violence and harassment and SB 1105. Additional participants include David S. Cohen, representatives of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, the Philadelphia Women’s Centers, and the Women’s Law Project, and other members of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health. More details will be available early next week.
Leadership members of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health include the Women’s Law Project, Keystone Progress Education Fund, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Associates, New Voices Pittsburgh: Women of Color for Reproductive Justice (NVP), New Voices Philadelphia, AccessMatters, Philadelphia Women’s Center, and the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
To request more information or to request an interview, contact Tara Murtha at tmurtha@womenslawproject. To learn more about the PA Campaign for Women’s Health, visit www.pa4womenshealth.org.