From 18 to 35 feet is the new standard for self-described demonstrators at women's clinics in Massachusetts. The wires report that the House joined the Senate in passing the clarified law with expanded distances and plain definitions.
The previous law was vague and there had never been a successful prosecution of the self-described counselors on the sidewalks. Numerous women complained they were physically accosted, insulted (as in "Murderer!') and verbally threatened. Regardless of whether the women headed to a clinic for fertility exams, abortions or birth control, they were often subject to yelling demonstrators touching them, giving them religious literature and otherwise trying to prevent them from accessing the clinic for services.
Gov. Deval Patrick has said he will sign this bill, which overwhelming passed both houses of the General Court. It prohibits demonstrators from entering or remaining on the clinic grounds or within a 35-foot radius from the entrance, exit or driveway of a reproductive health care facility. It exempts people who need to pass on the sidewalk to reach a destination, as well as police, firefighters, utility repair crews and such.
Those who have aggressively hassled the women coming to clinics for so long are already decrying what they say is a law that interferes with their First Amendment rights. It will be fascinating to see how soon and how many push the new law to see what will get them arrested.
Lackaday for them, we as a commonwealth and nation have a long history defining limits on free speech when it involves threatening or intimidating others.
Tags: massmarrier, Massachusetts, clinics, First Amendment, Planned Parenthood, buffer zone