Senator who volunteered as abortion clinic escort seeks statewide ‘buffer zone’ in Pennsylvania
HARRISBURG, PA, December 13 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A state senator who says he has personally escorted women into abortion clinics has introduced legislation to require a statewide “buffer zone” prohibiting pro-life activity around abortion clinics.
Pennsylvania State Senator Larry Farnese introduced Senate Bill 1208 on Wednesday. The bill would require “a buffer zone extending 15 feet from any portion of an entrance to or exit from the clinic’s driveway or parking lot,” according to a press release from Farnese's office.
A first violation of the zone would include at least a $100 fine or no more than 10 days in jail. A second offense would lead to a fine of at least $150 and no more than 20 days in jail, and a third offense would include punishments of at least $300 in fines and between 30 and 90 days in jail.
Farnese spokesperson Cameron Kline told LifeSiteNews.com that the senator’s position is that the bill protects the First Amendment rights of protesters. He said the bill “does not restrict any demonstrations, it does not restrict any conversations a woman may have with protestors, or protesters may have with women, at these health facilities.”
The goal, according to Kline, is to “just provide breathing room for women who are going to access services in these health clinics that are guaranteed by law.”
Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation Education Director Micaiah Bilger told LifeSiteNews.com in an e-mail that the pro-abortion bill and its companion in the state House – House Bill 1819 – appear to have “little support in either the House or Senate to make these bills a priority.” Aides in both chambers have indicated the bill would not pass in the Republican-dominated legislature.
Bilger said that rather than going after pro-life protesters, “the focus right now in Pennsylvania should be ensuring that abortion facilities are held accountable to basic health and safety standards. Given the horrors that happened inside Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia abortion facility, our leaders need to be vigilant in protecting women and babies from abortionists like Gosnell.”
“The Gosnell tragedy also speaks to the critical importance of making sure pregnant women know that they can get resources and support to empower them to choose life for their babies,” said Bilger.
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Gosnell's "House of Horrors" clinic escaped inspections for nearly two decades, despite repeated complaints to authorities. In the Grand Jury report that exposed the abysmal conditions in his clinic, investigators lamented that "even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety," and accused the Department of Helath of showing an "utter disregard" for the safety of women and their unborn children.
In response to a question about why pro-life activists are being targeted with this bill when political protestors, unions, and all other legal protests and activists are allowed on public property to the edge of private property, Kline said the bill is “not singling out any particular side. If any pro-choice groups want to protest, they are free to rally. He just wants to provide breathing room for women who are going to access services in these health clinics that are guaranteed by law.
“This could be anyone who's rallying. It's not just pro-life activists.”
Farnese's district has an abortion clinic in it, according to Kline, and there are others in the city.
In his press release, Farnese said he has “seen firsthand the verbal and physical harassment and intimidation [women going into clinics] have to endure.” He claimed the “walk from the curb to the clinic door can often be made torturous because of demonstrators.”
When asked about the Senator's views on legislation since the Gosnell case – something of controversy in the state legislature – Kline said that the senator “supports making clinics safe for anyone who walks in and out of those doors, and to ensure the local maniciupality and state agencies who oversee clinics, have the tools they need to enforce the laws and make sure everybody stays safe.”
He said Farnese “has not introduced any legislation specific to the Gosnell case,” nor has he introduced legislation as a result of it to fill in legal gaps that may exist.
Farnese's bill was introduced along with several others, all aimed at women. One aimed to eliminate a “23 percent gender wage gap.”
Requests for comment from the state's two Senators in Washington were not returned by press time.