Bill addresses Supreme Court decision to strike down buffer zone law
(BOSTON) – Representative Jeffrey Sánchez joined his colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass legislation that enhances public safety and protects access to reproductive health care facilities in Massachusetts.
The bill does not create a new buffer zone but instead authorizes law enforcement officials to issue a withdrawal order to someone blocking access to a facility entrance or driveway. Following dispersal, the individual must remain at least 25 feet from the facility’s entrances and driveways for a maximum of eight hours. The legislation requires the boundary to be clearly marked and the withdrawal law to be posted.
“This legislation will help guarantee that women in Massachusetts can continue to safely access care at reproductive health facilities without harassment or intimidation,” Sánchez said.
The bill will prohibit a person from attempting to, or intentionally injuring or intimidating anyone trying to access or exit a facility by force, a physical act, or threat of force. Additionally, it will impede patient and staff member’s access or departure to a facility with the clear intent to interfere with the person’s ability to receive or provide services, along with recklessly interfering with a vehicle attempting to access or exit a facility.
The bill aims to improve compliance by allowing for an affected individual, entity or the Attorney General to bring a civil action in Superior Court seeking injunctive relief, damages and attorneys’ fees. The court would be able to award civil penalties. Any violation of an injunction would result in a criminal offense.
Under this legislation the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act would be updated to give the Attorney General the power to obtain compensatory damages, recover litigation costs and fees, and seek penalties for the interference of constitutional rights.
The bill passed the House 116 to 35.