Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick today signed into a law a bill to protect access to health clinics where abortions are performed.
“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, and that the employees of those facilities can arrive at work each day without fear of harm,” Patrick said in a statement.
The law will be implemented immediately. It passed quickly through the legislative process following last month’s unanimous Supreme Court decision — in the case of McCullen v. Coakley — that ruled the state’s buffer zone banning protesters within 35 feet of clinics was unconstitutional. Justices said the law went too far in restricting free speech.
In response, state Sen. Harriette Chandler introduced a bill (S.2283), titled an Act to Promote Public Safety and Protect Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities. Below, watch Chandler discuss the bill with Melissa Harris-Perry.
Under the new law, protesters may not block access to a clinic entrance or driveway. Police may order protesters who “substantially impede” access to a marked area 25 feet away from the entrance or driveway for up to eight hours. Failure to comply with the order may result in misdemeanor criminal charges, punishable by a fine of up to $500 and imprisonment of up to three months for the first offense.
The bill also adopts a state version of the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which prohibits the use of force, physical act or threat of force to injure or intimidate someone attempting to enter or leave a reproductive health care facility.
To follow news about the new law, see the #SafeAccess tag on Twitter.
Plus: The New York Times today looks at the shortcomings of NYC’s abortion protest law.