Pro-life groups in Massachusetts are left devastated as the state's Governor Deval Patrick this week signed a bill allowing police to order anti-abortion protesters away from clinic entrances if their presence impedes public access.
"I am incredibly proud to sign legislation that continues Massachusetts leadership in ensuring that women seeking to access reproductive health facilities can do so safely and without harassment," Patrick said after signing the measure on Wednesday according to Reuters.
This new measure is introduced just one month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a 2007 Massachusetts law prohibiting protests within 35 feet of the entrances of reproductive-health facilities. The high court cited a violation of the right to freedom of speech when announcing their decision.
However, the latest bill signed by Governor Deval Patrick will reinstate the previous buffer zone rule. According to the law, police may order protesters to move 25 feet away from clinic entrances for eight hours if they block access.
The measure has been criticized by many anti-abortion activists.
Anne Fox, spokesperson for Massachusetts Citizens for Life is predicting the pro-choice legislators will push the bill into law.
"As fast as they can get it through the House and signed, Massachusetts will have a law which is worse than the old Buffer Zone. It effectively creates a 25-foot zone and the penalties are scary - $50,000 and three years in jail. The legislature is in the process of disrespecting the Supreme Court and penalizing law-abiding citizens," Fox said.
Lawyer Michael DePrimo said the new law's "vague and overbroad" wording "invites state censorship."
"The reality is that individuals in the abortion industry have a business incentive to falsely characterize any attempt at pro-life communication on the public ways outside abortion clinics as a form of harassment or intimidation, no matter how peaceful," he said.
C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League, agreed.
"The selective targeting of one group, the immediate, unhesitating and unconditional acceptance of the assertions of one side, the draconian civil and criminal penalties, and the indecent haste with which this flawed measure was stampeded to the governor's desk, all smack of retaliation towards pro-life activists for McCullen v. Coakley," he said. "Overlooked in this controversy over alleged violence in front of abortion clinics is the very real and lethal violence which these facilities were built to perpetrate on a daily basis and on an industrial scale. An estimated 9,000 unborn children are killed each year in the Planned Parenthood clinic on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston alone."