July 30, 2014 — Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) on Tuesday said he will act quickly to sign a bill that would improve security surrounding the state's abortion clinics, the AP/Worcester Telegram reports.
The state Legislature gave final approval to the bill on Tuesday (AP/Worcester Telegram, 7/30). It was introduced in response to a Supreme Court decision that struck down the state's "buffer zone" law, which prevented protesters from standing within 35 feet of an abortion clinic entrance (Bidgood, New York Times, 7/29).
Antiabortion-rights groups have said they would challenge the new measure in court if it becomes law (AP/Worcester Telegram, 7/30).
The bill would give law enforcement personnel the authority to give dispersal orders if two or more protesters deliberately prevent patients or staff members from entering a clinic. Individuals who receive such orders would be required to stay at least 25 feet away from the clinic's entrance for up to eight hours.
The bill also would prohibit protesters from interfering with vehicles approaching or leaving the area, as well as intimidating or harming people accessing the clinic. In addition, victims of such intimidation would be allowed to seek damages through civil action.
The measure also would amend the state's current civil rights act to permit the state attorney general to pursue damages on behalf of individuals who have been blocked from accessing the clinics. The attorney general would be allowed to try to recover litigation costs and pursue civil penalties for individuals whose constitutional rights have been obstructed (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/24).