Legislative leaders file bill to counter buffer zone ruling

Two and a half weeks after the US Supreme Court struck down Massachusetts’s buffer zone law, the state’s top elected officials are rallying around legislation aimed at limiting harassment and intimidation outside abortion clinics.

The bill gives the police power to disperse a group of two or more people impeding access to clinics. It also gives the attorney general the authority to seek fines and compensatory damages against protesters who break the law.

Legislative leaders signaled that they intend to push the bill through before the legislative session comes to a close July 31.


“This is a serious public safety issue that needs to be addressed to restore the privacy and respect that women deserve when seeking health care,” Senate President Therese Murray said in a statement.

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The bill hews closely to an approach laid out by Attorney General Martha Coakley and Governor Deval Patrick at a State House press conference earlier this month.

“Women must be able to access reproductive health care free from intimidation and threats,” Coakley said in a statement Monday afternoon. “This bill is the best solution to protect those patients and employees in light of the court’s decision, and we must act together to pass this legislation before the session is out.”

State Senator Harriette L. Chandler, a Worcester Democrat, filed the legislation. She said the Legislature’s Joint Commission on the Judiciary will hold a hearing Wednesday. Chandler said she is confident it will win passage before the end of the session.

“I would like to think the need is clear,” she said.

Related coverage:


Mass. abortion clinic buffer zones ruled illegal

Opinion: Buffer zone rhetoric belies facts about pro-life protesters

Abraham: With no buffer zone, patients pressed at Planned Parenthood

Editorial: After court’s ruling, state must find new ways to protect patients

Weiss: Supreme Court is naive on buffer zones


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David Scharfenberg can be reached at