More than 80 law enforcement officials, reproductive health care providers and advocates from across New York came together yesterday to discuss how to better protect reproductive clinics and providers, and actions to take against anti-abortion terrorism.
Gov. David A. Paterson signed bill A.8924/S. 6112 into law yesterday that establishes the crime of aggravated interference with health care services in the first and second degrees. Sponsored by Sen. Kevin Parker, D--Brooklyn, and Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D--Grand Island, the law calls for new felony classifications to further penalize someone who causes physical injury to any reproductive health care provider. The law will protect doctors and staff workers in clinics.
Julie Murphy, investigator with the New York state Police Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit for Troop G, helped plan the training for yesterday's event and gave a presentation on Operation Safeguard, an outreach program developed by the state Office of Homeland Security that incorporates all law enforcement.
The safeguard plan provides information education and suspicious indicators to reproductive health care centers to help them understand what necessary steps to take if they witness conspicuous behavior in their work place. If wary behavior by any individual is apparent, clincs can call the toll-free tip line 1-800-SAFENYS.
Anti-abortion terrorism hit New York in 1998 when abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian was murdered in his home near Buffalo by anti-abortion activist James Kopp.
"The important part is that we recognize that despite anyone's beliefs or feelings about this emotionally charged issues is that it is a law enforcement issue," said Denise E. O'Donnell, deputy secretary for public safety. "We do have an obligation to protect individuals who are providing reproduction services."
The most recent incident occurred this year when Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed in a church in Wichita, Kan. Yesterday's event was developed in response to this murder and is used as a case example to show what law enforcement can do to better ensure our state is safe, according to Murphy.