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Mass. legislature approves abortion clinic protest bill

Planned Parenthood clinics used to have a 35-foot buffer zone (seen above).

David L. Ryan/Globe staff, file

Planned Parenthood clinics used to have a 35-foot buffer zone (seen above).

The Legislature today sent a bill aimed at curbing harassment and obstruction outside abortion clinics to Governor Deval Patrick, who is expected to soon sign it into the law.

The bill was crafted following the US Supreme Court’s June ruling striking down the state’s “buffer zone” law, which barred protesters from within 35 feet of clinics.

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The new legislation has been lauded by abortion rights activists but panned by opponents who say it won’t pass constitutional muster.

The bill gives police more authority to disperse protesters who have substantially impeded access to a clinic. It then allows law enforcement to require protesters to remain 25 feet away from the driveway or entrance of the facility for eight hours or until the clinic closes for the day. It also boosts the ability of the attorney general to seek fines and compensatory damages from unlawful protesters.

“This legislation is a responsible approach to addressing public safety concerns while also addressing the concerns of the Court,” Senate President Therese Murray said in a statement.

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“I am pleased we have been able to move quickly to address a practical problem,” Senator William N. Brownsberger, a Belmont Democrat said in a statement.

“In so doing, we have kept constitutional concerns very much in mind,” said Brownsberger, the Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

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

Opinion: the First Amendment, loved and loathed

Joshua Miller can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.
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