Spitzer Files Suit To Protect Clinic Access In Upstate New York
Attorney General Spitzer today filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against four members of a Utica family accused of repeatedly obstructing access to reproductive health care facilities in Central and Northern New York.
The suit - the first brought under New York's new clinic access law - alleges that Victoria Kraeger, her husband Joseph Kraeger, and their adult daughters Sheri Kraeger and Vicki Jo Syverson have repeatedly interfered with, harassed and intimidated those seeking service at the clinics. The suit also alleges violations of the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act.
"When individuals cross the line from advocating their views to interfering with access to constitutionally protected medical services, my office has a duty under the law to intervene," Spitzer said.
Spitzer filed a simultaneous motion for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the defendants from further violations of the laws that protect access to reproductive health services. It also seeks the creation of a buffer zone to keep the defendants 15 feet away from the walkway and driveway entrances to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Utica, which the lawsuit alleges is the current focus of defendants' activities.
The preliminary injunction motion is supported by declarations from law enforcement officers, women seeking care at the Utica clinic, and Planned Parenthood employees and neighbors who have observed defendants' activities.
The lawsuit alleges that the Kraegers have for a number of years planned and implemented a series of violations of state and federal law, including the following:
- Delivering a package that looked like a bomb to a local health clinic ;
- Posting signs that offer a "reward" for the identification of clinic staff members;
- Regularly accosting, crowding, blocking, and standing in front of patients as they approach clinic entrances;
- Chasing and yelling at patients and staff as they leave clinics; and
- Creating a safety hazard and public nuisance by standing in and near clinic driveways with large signs that obstruct departing drivers' view of oncoming traffic.
"This action is necessary to ensure that law and order is maintained at reproductive health care clinics and that the intent of Congress and the State Legislature to ensure access to these clinics is upheld," Spitzer said. "Individuals who seek or provide reproductive health care services should be able to do so without encountering threats or intimidation."
The lawsuit follows Spitzer's successful action enjoining similar conduct in the Buffalo and Rochester areas.
Assistant Attorney General Carrie H. Cohen worked on this matter under the direction of Reproductive Rights Unit Director Jennifer K. Brown, Civil Rights Bureau Chief Andrew G. Celli, Jr., and Deputy Bureau Chief Mark G. Peters.