Board of Legislators introduced the Safe Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act

White Plains, NY —  On Monday, the Board of Legislators introduced a proposed law that will protect health care facility workers and people seeking medical treatment from being physically prevented or otherwise intimidated while trying to obtain rightful, private services from their health care providers, including abortions. 

The proposed law will be taken up Thursday by the Board's Legislation and Health Committees.

Read the draft legislation here:

The act would make it illegal to obstruct a person from entering or exiting a reproductive health care facility, in order to prevent that person from obtaining medical treatment or reproductive health care services. It would also bar physical harassment of people entering or exiting, damage to the premises, and attempts to intimidate people within 25 feet of the building.

At an announcement event on Monday in the BOL Rotunda, Chairwoman Catherine Borgia (D - Cortlandt, Croton on Hudson, Ossining, Briarcliff Manor, Peekskill) said, "The basic concept behind this bill is that every single person -- including women, who are, in fact, people -- have the right to access reproductive health care unimpeded, unbullied, undeterred. This is a bill about respect, about the opportunity for women to have autonomy and control over their own choices."

Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D - Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Edgemont, Hartsdale, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington), one of the act's chief sponsors, said, " This law has been over a decade in the making. Ten years ago, with the support of our congressional and state delegations and the support of current and former local officials, we passed such a measure only to see it vetoed by the former County Executive. Since then, we have weighed the protection of the First Amendment right to protest and the right to health care. The legal considerations changed with the invasion of All Women's Health in White Plains last year.  Working with the County Law Department, we have crafted this measure that balances the rights of legitimate protesters with those of persons seeking reproductive health care. There is no First Amendment right to invade private property and disrupt activities thereon."

Catherine Lederer-Plaskett, President, WCLA-Choice Matters, said, "This Board has taken a law that started over 10 years ago and bought it up to date, addressing the type of violence that is happening today. It used to be that it was external. Now they're coming in and invading the space of a patient who came for a private moment to have health care. They're coming in, regardless of what that patient is there for, to shut down the clinic. That makes people feel like they're caged, like they're victims and like they don't have any right to privacy. Now I know the Supreme Court is questioning the right to privacy, but I'm glad to see that this Board recognizes that HIPAA recognizes that we have a right to privacy."

Kate Permut, Board Member of Westchester Women's Agenda, said, "We believe that all people need safe, unharassed access to health care, free from the interference of others, because there are those who want to interfere with your most personal and private health care decision.  This bill would provide clear legal guidelines on where people have the right to protest, but where other people have the right to get health care without harassment."

Vincent Russell, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic, said, "On behalf of our patients and all of our staff, I would like to say 'thank you' to the Westchester County Board of Legislators.  Safety and security is paramount at Planned Parenthood, so important that we've invested $2 million in our White Plains health center to move the front patient entrance to the rear of the building to shield our patients from protesters who stand on the street. In light of the efforts across the country to restrict or abolish abortion access I want to say 'thank you' for protecting our patients' rights to receive health care."

You may also go to Vimeo to watch the full video.