Senate Approves Abortion Clinic Safety Bill

The Massachusetts Senate has approved a bill designed to tighten security around abortion clinics.

The bill was recommended by the Judiciary Committee Wednesday afternoon. Hours later the full Senate approved it on a voice vote.

The proposal would let police disperse groups substantially impeding access to Massachusetts abortion clinics. After a dispersal order is issued in writing, those individuals would have to stay at least 25 feet from the clinic's entrances for up to eight hours.

Eleanor McCullen, who successfully challenged the state's former 35-foot "buffer zone" law before the Supreme Court, said she would head back to court if the bill becomes law.

"This bill is a little bit, it's hard to understand it," McCullen said. "I have to have our lawyers reread it, there's so much in there that's unconstitutional."

The bill's supporters, including Attorney General Martha Coakley, said the new bill is needed to protect the safety of women entering clinics and the free speech rights of protesters.

"This Supreme Court said only we think that buffer zone imposes too much on free speech," Coakley said. "But they said you have the right to go back to the drawing board, as we are suggesting, and provide this kind of relief to make sure people feel safe and are safe."

The bill now heads to the House.

With reporting by The Associated Press and the WBUR Newsroom.