Massachusetts Bill Would Expand Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

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Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

The Massachusetts Senate on Tuesday by voice vote passed a bill thatwould expand abortion clinic buffer zones from 18 feet to 35 feet, the Boston Globe reports (Simpson, Boston Globe, 10/24).

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Thecurrent law, which was passed in 2000, requires protesters to stay atleast six feet away from clinic employees and patients and establishesan 18-foot zone within which individuals may not interact with clinicvisitors or staff for the purpose of counseling or protesting (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report,1/3). There have been no successful prosecutions under the law becauseofficials are not clear how to prove patient consent or refusal whenprotesters approach.

Some supporters of the bill, sponsored bySen. Harriette Chandler (D), said the measure would protect women fromintimidation and allow for easier prosecution of violators. "We're nottalking about denying people the right to have freedom of speech,"Chandler said, adding, "What we're talking about is allowing people toaccess health care." However, Marie Sturgis, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life,said that the legislation would "infring[e] on the pro-lifers' abilityto reach out to women in crisis who need vital information."

Gov.Deval Patrick (D) in a statement said that the bill would "protectpatients from the abuse that so many [women] have encountered as theyseek care." The measure now heads to the House, where at least 75lawmakers have said they support it (Boston Globe, 10/24).A spokesperson for House Speaker Sal DiMasi (D), who supports themeasure, said the bill will be acted on quickly in the chamber (AP/Eyewitness News, 10/23).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyWomen's Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for emaildelivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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