Free speech and the effort to save unborn children is about to take another hit in Massachusetts. The state Legislature is poised to pass a law doubling the size of abortion clinic “buffer zones”; Gov. Deval Patrick promises to sign it of course; and Attorney General Martha Coakley vows to defend it against constitutional challenges.
Some 75 House members and 23 senators, more than half the Senate chamber, are cosponsoring a bill that would expand the zone from 18 to 35 feet and prohibit demonstrators within that area. Under the current law, enacted in 2000, protesters can enter the 18-foot zone but must remain at least 6 feet away from patients and staff.
Appearing at a hearing yesterday before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, Coakley and a Boston police official said the current law is unenforceable and has not yielded a single successful prosecution.
“It hasn’t been a real buffer zone,” said Captain William Evans, who was assigned for nine years to Allston-Brighton, where Planned Parenthood’s Boston clinic is located. “The law hasn’t stopped protesters from going inside the zone. All they have to do is freeze. They can’t get into people’s faces, but the patients have to go around them to get in.
Love that thinking. The current law doesn’t work because they haven’t been able to convict any pro-lifers. The obvious intent of the law is not to protect clinic workers or the public entering them. If it were, then they would declare the law a success since there has been no clinic violence. (Of course, without a buffer zone there wouldn’t be any either, but then the other side will bring up the lone case of mentally ill Catholic-hater who shot up a clinic more than a decade ago and then “committed suicide” while in the hands of the corrections system.)
Even the ACLU thinks this is a bad law.
“We’re strong supporters of reproductive freedom,” said Christopher Ott, spokesman for ACLU of Massachusetts, “but we’re also strong supporters of freedom of expression.
“This bill is overly broad, because it would ban even silent protest, as well as efforts to respectfully distribute infor mation on either side of the issue. We need to find a better way to balance the right of access to reproductive health and the right to freedom of expression.”
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