New York Governor David Paterson signed the Protections for Reproductive Health Care Act last week that will help protect those who work in reproductive health. The new law (see PDF) increases penalties for criminal activities that target healthcare providers and also expands protections to include volunteers for the first time as well as paid employees of women’s health clinics.
The bill, first introduced in June by Assembly member Sam Hoyt (D-114) following the murder of Dr. George Tiller, creates new class E and C felonies for causing physical or serious physical injury to “someone obtaining, providing, or assisting someone to obtain or provide reproductive health services.” It also attempts to effectively punish repeat offenders.
“Given the history of violence committed against patients and employees of women’s health clinics across the United States and in New York State, establishment of these new offenses is appropriate,” Governor Paterson said in a press release regarding the signing of the new law. “I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that all New Yorkers have access to quality, affordable health care in a safe environment.”
Lynne Slepian, widow of abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian, who was murdered by sniper James Kopp at his home in 1998, spoke at a news conference on the enactment of the new law. She said that the new law is “going to set a precedent for the whole country, we hope. The issue [of clinic violence] is not going to go away. The issue will never go away. Hopefully, strong penalties will decrease the violence,” reported the Buffalo News.