(L to R: Leg. Terry Clements, Vedat Gashi, MaryJane Shimsky, Majority Whip Jose Alvarado, County Executive George Latimer, Chairwoman Catherine Borgia, Vice Chair Nancy Barr, Leg. Erika Pierce)
White Plains, NY — On Monday, the Board of Legislators voted to approve a law ensuring safe access to reproductive health care facilities. The measure passed by a 15-2 vote. Westchester County Executive George Latimer signed the act into law immediately after its approval by the Board.
The new law, which takes effect immediately, will protect health care workers and patients seeking medical treatment from being obstructed from entering or exiting a reproductive health care facility and from harassing behavior from persons within specific distances of the premises. It enacts a 25-foot no-harassment zone around the facility’s perimeter and establishes the designation of an 8-foot personal space bubble surrounding the person within 100 feet of the facility.
As the nation reels from the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, the need to codify stronger anti-harassment legislation for reproductive health patients, providers, and staff while preserving the free speech of legitimate protestors is more critical now than ever. The decision will likely result in an increase of out-of-state residents seeking reproductive health care and, conversely, an increase in anti-choice protesting.
Chairwoman Catherine Borgia (D – Cortlandt, Croton on Hudson, Ossining, Briarcliff Manor, Peekskill), one of the original sponsors said, “Women will be looking to New York for sanctuary to reclaim their bodily autonomy, and we want to say Westchester is ready. Any person who travels to our County seeking reproductive care can access it safely without intimidation or provocation. I hope other counties can see the urgency and importance of this law and consider it for their jurisdictions, as well.”
Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D – Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Edgemont, Hartsdale, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington), main sponsor of the bill, said, “The road to getting this act passed was very long and arduous. However, it’s led us to a strong, well-balanced piece of legislation that safeguards the rights of patients to receive their care without infringing on protected free speech. I am more than happy to finally see that hard work come to fruition. I thank our County Executive George Latimer for his unwavering support and understanding that this bill could not wait another minute without being signed.”
Majority Leader Christopher Johnson (D – Yonkers) said, “As Americans, we are founded on the beliefs and principles that we are a society with inherent rights and freedoms. We are free to live, worship, and speak as long as we remain peaceful and law-abiding. This bill mutually protects and respects one’s right to privacy, right to choose, and right to protest equally and fairly.”
County Executive George Latimer said, “We want to protect the women who need these services from aggressive advocacy that exceeds free speech and becomes intimidation and interference with their personal safety.”
Read the legislation at: https://bit.ly/3bjScYb