The State of Massachusetts legislature has given the approval Thursday, November 8, to a bill that mandates that Abortion protesters to stand at least 35 feet from Doctor’s offices and clinics that offer abortion services and private abortion care.
The bill, expected to be signed next week, will be the among the nation’s strictest state law requiring stable, fixed zones that protesters cannot enter around those reproductive health offices and clinics that offer abortions and reproductive care services.
The current law was enacted in 2000, declares that protesters cannot go within 6 feet of a person in an 18-foot zone outside the doors of an office that offers . The agencies responsible for protecting the zones have said it was difficult to enforce.
The bill passed the Senate unanimously on Thursday and the House in a 122-to-28 vote. There are 10 reproductive health offices in the state offer abortion care.
“The basic goal of the bill is to make sure patients and staff can enter reproductive health facilities without being obstructed, intimidated and harassed,” said Representative Carl M. Sciortino. Sciortino is a Democrat and is one of the bill’s sponsors. He also noted that “Current law is completely unenforceable and did not protect patients and staff the way it intended.”
Opponents of the new bill, in a typical response to laws protecting individuals from their ceaseless harassments, say the law will violate their freedom of speech.
The call for buffer zones started in 1994 after John C. Salvi III killed two women and wounded five other people at two offices offering abortion care in Brookline, Mass.
Colorado, Florida, and Montana have buffer zone laws similar to the current Massachusetts law. Interstingly, the country’s largest fixed buffer zone, 36 feet, is mandated in Melbourne, Fla.