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Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone

Pro-choice advocates and lawmakers promoted new legislation on Beacon Hill today, which would extend the protest-free buffer zone around the state's abortion clinics.

Current law provides for an 18 foot buffer zone, which can be crossed by protesters with the consent from patients entering the clinic, but some critics of that law say it allows demonstrators to get threateningly close to patients.

The new measure, sponsored by Sen. Jarrett Barrios, Rep. Carl Sciortino and Rep. Marty Walz, would extend the buffer zone at all of the state's abortion clinics to 35 feet, and would prohibit protestors from coming closer.

Proponents of the bill say it would help to ensure access to reproductive health services. Angus McQuilken, VP for Public Relations for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts says that patients and doctors face aggressive protestors on their way to the state's clinics. According to Mr. McQuilken, "the current law is violated every single day. There has not been a single successful prosecution under that law in seven years time."

Pro-Life advocates argue that patients and doctors receive sufficient protection under the current law, and that the new legislation would impede their First Amendment right to disseminate information.

Mary Sturgis, Director of Massachusetts Citizens for Life says, "People have a right to pass out material. This is something that citizens are guaranteed under the Constitution."

Backers of the bill say that state law enforcement officials support the new legislation, which they see as easier to enforce than current law.

This program aired on May 16, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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