NYS Attorney General expands buffer zone against protestors at Utica Planned Parenthood

By WKTV News

UTICA, N.Y - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Wednesday that his office has secured a new court order protecting a Planned Parenthood site in Utica that is currently undergoing expansion from threatening and obstructive action by protesters.

The court's action expands the protections established in an earlier ruling which both limited the activities of a group of anti-choice activists, Joseph Kraeger, Victoria Kraeger, Sheri Kraeger, and Vicki Jo Syversen, at a number of upstate reproductive health facilities and imposed a buffer zone barring their activities around the main entrances to the Planned Parenthood facility in Utica.

Following an earlier trial, United States District Judge David Hurd found that the activists engaged in threatening behavior and blocked access to the clinic in violation of state and federal law.

The court also found that a buffer zone was necessary to protect the ability of patients and staff to approach the clinic entrances without fear or difficulty.

The Attorney General says that the order obtained this week will ensure that patient and staff access will not be impaired by the clinic's expansion which extends the property line twenty-four feet beyond the boundary of the current buffer zone, and upholds the goals of the original injunction by ensuring that new entrances are also protected.

Any violation of the court could result in a finding of civil or criminal contempt, Attorney General Schneiderman's Office states.

“The First Amendment does not protect dangerous protest activities that threaten patients and medical professionals. The new buffer zone that my office has secured will help protect and shield clinic access for all New Yorkers in the region,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I am pleased that the court's ruling preserves the balance allowing free expression, protecting women’s reproductive rights and ensuring patient and staff safety at Utica’s Planned Parenthood clinic.”

As a result of violence and threats of violence at reproductive health facilities around the nation, federal and state law prohibits protester activity that constitutes an act of force, a threat of force, or an act of physical obstruction. Attorney General Schneiderman’s office is committed to upholding these laws to ensure that all New Yorkers have continuous access to a full range of health care services.

Margaret Roberts, Co-President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Mohawk Hudson said, "The mission of Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson is to provide quality health care, to educate individuals to make informed sexual and reproductive decisions, and to protect the reproductive rights of persons across our state. We are pleased that the court has agreed to modify the buffer zone outside of our Utica office which will help ensure that both our staff and patients from across the region continue to have unfettered access to the office. We appreciate the work that the Attorney General's office has done to ensure compliance with the law."

Tracey Brooks, President and CEO of Family Planning Advocates of NYS said, “We were very pleased to see that the Attorney General's office is continuing to work to see that First Amendment rights are properly balanced against the rights of the citizens of New York to make their own health care choices.”

A copy of the map establishing the expanded buffer zone at Utica's Planned Parenthood clinic can be found in the related content of this story.

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