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Lawmakers look to increase safety regulations at reproductive healthcare clinics

'Buffer zone' legislation aims to keep patients, employees safe from harassment and violence
December 9, 2015
Democratic Newsroom

State Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) and Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) held a news conference today to announce House Bill 408 (HB 408), legislation that would create a buffer zone for patients and medical staff at reproductive healthcare providers. The bill would also provide victims of non-physical harassment the ability to pursue legal action.

“Patients and staff at healthcare clinics have been targets of harassment, and even violence, for decades,” said Lepore-Hagan. “After the horrific shooting in Colorado Springs and a number of incidents in Ohio, it’s finally time to say that ‘enough is enough.’ With this legislation, we can put an end to this criminal activity and protect women at a truly vulnerable point in their lives.” 

HB 408 aims to address the harassment of doctors, patients and staff at Ohio’s nine remaining abortion clinics. Recent months have seen an uptick in extreme rhetoric and harassment after heavily edited, politically motivated videos surfaced appearing to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue for research. The videos have since been widely discredited, despite repeated Republican-led efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

“No one should have to endure abuse and harassment for seeking legal medical care,” said Howse. “Recent events have shaken some women in Ohio, but we are here today to assure women that we will do everything in our power to protect their right to access quality, comprehensive healthcare services. Healthcare choices can be difficult enough without undue harassment, intimidation and threats of violence. It is time this legislature stands up for women.”

The buffer zone provision of the bill is a response to years of harassment of clinic patients as they enter and exit clinics. Because providers and their families are frequently stalked and harassed at their homes and in their communities, the bill also allows victims to hold perpetrators accountable through financial or injunctive action.

"We cannot allow our medical professionals and clinic employees to repeatedly be targets of harassment at their businesses and homes,” said NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland. “This bill gives physicians and their staff another tool to stop protesters from interfering with their ability to provide reproductive health care to their patients.”

HB 408 is one in a number of bills offered by female Ohio House Democratic members that are aimed at securing and expanding women’s access to comprehensive healthcare services.