by Steven Ertelt | Washington, DC | LifeNews.com | 7/30/14
Despite the fact the nation’s highest court took the state of Massachusetts to task for passing a law curtailing the free speech rights of pro-life advocates, the Bay State is again trying to suppress them.
In a unanimous decision last month, the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts buffer zone law prohibiting pro-life free speech outside abortion clinics. The decision was a huge victory for pro-life sidewalk counselors who provide women with abortion alternatives.
In their ruling, the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot “buffer zone” restricting pro-life advocates from speaking with people entering abortion facilities.
Saying the abortion buffer zone is “inconsistent with the First Amendment,” the Supreme Court ruled that that the buffer zone violated the First Amendment because it “restricts access to ‘public way[s]’ and ‘sidewalk[s],’ places that have traditionally been open for speech activities.”
Now, Massachusetts lawmakers have responded with a vengeance — passing a radical bill that prohibits free speech for pro-lifers seeking to help women.
Today, Governor Deval Patrick, who is a staunch abortion proponent and a former board member of Planned Parenthood, signed the bill into law.
The attorney for Eleanor McCullen, the lead plaintiff in the 9-0 decision in McCullen v. Coakley, emailed LifeNews about the bill. Michael DePrimo told LifeNews.com:
“The new buffer zone law is a backdoor attempt to interfere with the constitutional right of free speech in the service of women seeking abortion whose minds are not made up – women who are looking for the hope, help, love, and concrete aid offered by Eleanor McCullen and other peaceful sidewalk counselors. This new law chills life-saving speech by threatening massive civil fines for non-violent acts such as peacefully offering a leaflet of information to passersby on a public sidewalk.
The reality is that individuals in the abortion industry have a business incentive to falsely characterize any attempt at pro-life communication on the public ways outside abortion clinics as a form of harassment or intimidation, no matter how peaceful. It is important for law enforcement to understand that momentary attempts at peaceful communication to offer hope, help and love are constitutionally protected expressive conduct, despite the legislature’s rejection of an amendment offered by Representative Jim Lyons that would have made that expressly clear.
If a citizen is threatening public safety, he or she can be arrested under current state or federal law, and then enjoined by a
judge based on evidence and testimony. The new law signed by the Governor ignores those common resources, and instead invites state censorship by enabling police to order peaceful citizens to stand on a 25-foot line for the remainder of the abortion clinics’ business hours. The new law is unconstitutional not only because it is vague and overbroad, but also because it purports to grant to law enforcement the power to issue a temporary restraining order—a power that may only be exercised by courts.
The first amendment protection of free speech cannot be placed behind painted lines. My client Eleanor McCullen and the other peaceful sidewalk counselors will continue to serve the women of Boston who deserve real alternatives to abortion. We will closely monitor law enforcement’s use of the new law to ensure that our clients’ peaceful exercise of first amendment rights is not infringed.”
Anne Fox of Massachusetts Citizens for Life told LifeNews that abortion activists told legislators during debate in the legislature false tales of pro-lifers harassing women.
“Planned Parenthood employs a huge number of people in the state who all drone on about their abuse by pro-lifers. No legislator picked up on the pro-lifers’ demands for pictures or videos of the alleged incidents,” she said.
Fox said pro-abortion lawmakers will rush the bill through the legislature.
“As fast as they can get it through the House and signed, Massachusetts will have a law which is worse than the old Buffer Zone. It effectively creates a 25-foot zone and the penalties are scary – $50,000 and three years in jail,” she said. “The legislature is in the process of disrespecting the Supreme Court and penalizing law-abiding citizens. I do think all the other places that have suspended their Buffer Zones will pass laws like this one. At least Massachusetts will have company in its foolishness.”
During the hearing, when the pro-lifers had a chance to speak, Eleanor McCullen, an elderly woman who has spent years helping women find abortion alternatives, and other pro-life advocates explained that it would be counterproductive to their efforts to save babies from abortion and help women to treat pregnant women badly.
“Phil Moran, the local lawyer for the McCullen win, compared the new zone to the penalty box where the counselors would always be,” Fox told LifeNews about the hearing. “State Representatives Jim Lyons and Marc Lombardo spoke. Jim pointed out that these same people say “The Supreme court has spoken” about Roe v Wade. Now they have no use for the Court. Marc stated that this proposed law is so outrageous that it will definitely be appealed and cited the costs in time and money that will be associated with the appeal – the McCullen case has already cost many millions.”
Pat Stewart, MCFL Executive Director, gave impressive testimony citing 20 actual laws that already cover blockading, harassing, etc.