Combating The Supreme Court's Buffer Zone Ruling in Massachusetts

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The pro-life movement saw a big win a few weeks ago, when the Supreme Court unanimously struck down a law in Massachusetts that enforced 35-foot buffer zones around abortion clinics. These buffer zones prevented protesters and sidewalk counselors from approaching women entering the clinic within a 35-foot radius. The reasoning for SCOTUS's ruling was the first amendment: That making a legally protected invisible fence around these facilities infringed on protester's right to free speech. But even a word as final as the Supreme Court's won't stop Massachusetts pro-choice advocates for fighting for safe, harassment-free access to abortion clinics. Massachusetts politicians Attorney General Martha Coakley, Governor Deval Patrick, Senate President Therese Murray, and Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, along with the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM) drafted a new piece of legislation to combat the SCOTUS's recent overturning of the buffer zone law, An Act to Promote Public Safety and Protect Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities.

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The bill looks to put into place several protections that will make it easier for women coming and going from clinics. It starts with simply making the physical act of entering the facility easier: making a clear passage for women to walk in and out of a facility and prohibiting individuals blocking the road or interfering with someone's car when entering the clinic grounds, as well. The act would also outlaw using threat, force, or physical means to intimidate or harm someone entering or leaving a clinic.

In a Judiciary Committee hearing in Massachusetts today, patients, lawmakers, and PPLM staff members testified to the hostile, intimidating and even in some case, potentially dangerous atmosphere that exists at abortion clinics in the absence of a buffer zone—and why an act like this one is essential for safety. Regardless of whether or not the buffer zone exists in Massachusetts—or any state—women should not be made to feel unsafe when entering a clinic, supporters of the act argued at today's hearing. As Pia L., a PPLM patient, says: "We may have lost the yellow painted line, but we should not lose our right to feel safe and protected on our way to see our doctor."

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