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Post date: February 2 1999

Spitzer Announces Support For Anti-stalking Bill

Attorney General L. Spitzer today announced his support for new legislation criminalizing "stalking". At the same time, Spitzer reaffirmed the need for a state law punishing those who would use threats, violence or intimidation to interfere with access to abortion services.

"Stalking is a form of terrorism," Spitzer said. "Law enforcement officials need this powerful new tool to combat it."

The anti-stalking bill (S-1241), which was introduced by Sen. Michael Balboni and has the support of Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, criminalizes a range of conduct, including repeated pursuit of a person or other acts likely to inspire reasonable fear of physical injury. The bill includes new classifications under the Penal Law, making stalking a misdemeanor and, in some cases, a felony.

While recognizing the importance of anti-stalking legislation, Spitzer does not view the anti- stalking bill as a substitute for legislation passed by the Assembly which would make it a crime to use violence, threats or intimidation to block access to abortion services (A-1753). "As important as the anti-stalking bill is, it cannot replace the need for strong laws punishing people who use force and threats of force to prevent women from exercising free choice."

"The problem of abortion clinic violence in New York is serious and growing," Spitzer said. "New York needs laws directly targeted at protecting doctors, clinic workers, and women seeking reproductive health services. It is important to have laws on the books that give prosecutors the power to go after stalkers; it is equally important to have the prosecutorial tools sufficient to punish those who seek to deprive women of their constitutional rights."

Spitzer directed his staff to complete a thorough analysis of the anti-stalking and abortion clinic access bills after learning that some legislators had argued that the two bills covered the same ground. The analysis showed that, "while the two bills intersect to some degree, the anti- stalking bill would not criminalize much of the conduct covered by the clinic access bill, and the clinic access bill gives victims greater rights."

For example, the anti-stalking bill focusses on repeated acts of intimidation, whereas the clinic access legislation covers one-time-only acts. Moreover, while the anti-stalking legislation provides only criminal penalties, the clinic access bill provides for criminal sanctions, injunctive relief and private lawsuits against wrongdoers. While the clinic access legislation gives express protection against damage to or interference with property -- such as the classic technique of blockading a health clinic -- the anti-stalking bill does not. Finally, the clinic access legislation allows victims to seek protection under an assumed name.