Senate Passes Buffer Zone Law

by | Jul 21, 2014

BOSTON- On Wednesday, July 16 the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation amending the General Laws regarding buffer zones for reproductive health care facilities announced Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury).

“Today, the Senate in passing this legislation continued our commitment to protecting the rights of women to safely seek access to reproductive health care facilities,” stated Senator Moore, a co-sponsor of the legislation. “The bill carefully balances public safety and access considerations while protecting free speech rights.”

The bill comes in response to the June 26 US Supreme Court ruling that found the state’s previous buffer zone law unconstitutional because it violated free speech.

Under the new bill, law enforcement officials must order immediate dispersal where a group of two or more individuals substantially impede access to a reproductive health care facility’s entrance or driveway. Following the dispersal order, individuals must remain at least 25 feet from the facility’s entrances and driveways for a maximum of eight hours.

The bill prohibits the use of a physical act of threat or force to intentionally injure or intimidate, or attempt to injure or intimidate, an individual attempting to access or depart from a facility. It prohibits impeding a patient or staff member’s access to or departure from a facility with the intent to interfere with that person’s ability to obtain or provide services. The bill also prohibits knowingly impeding an individual or vehicle’s access to or departure from a facility.

The legislation enhances the ability of private parties and the Attorney General to ensure compliance by filing a civil action in court.

The bill now goes to the House for consideration.