Bill Would Punish Harassment of Abortion Clinic Patients
Sen. Larry Farnese is pushing a bill that would punish harassment of women entering abortion clinics — and give prison sentences to anybody who injures or kills a woman entering a clinic.
Farnese, the Philly Democrat, introduced the bill earlier this month. He promoted it Wednesday with a “Twitter Town Hall” held online with pro-choice and other liberal Pennsylvania groups.
“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 in introducing the bill. “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.”
Under Farnese’s bill:
• Bodily injury to a patient could result a third-degree felony charge punishable by up to seven years in prison.
• “Serious bodily injury” could lead to a first-degree felony charge with up to 20 years in prison.
• Death could bring a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Additionally a charge of “harassment” of a clinic patient could result in the possibility of as much as two years in prison and a $10,000 fine; a second offense could bring up to 5 years in prison plus a $50,000 fine.
The U.S. Supreme Court has tended to strike down laws that restrict the ability of pro-life activists to approach abortion clinic patients, saying such rules infringe on First Amendment rights. Clinic officials and defenders say their patients deserve protection too, and Farnese says his bill is specifically modeled on the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.
“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,” said Amanda Kifferly, director of patient advocacy for The Women’s Centers, which participated in Wednesday’s event.
Farnese’s bill has been referred to the Pennsylvania Senate’s Judiciary Committee.