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A legislative mockery: Massachusetts lawmakers rush to replace unconstitutional 'buffer zone' bill

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jul 22, 2014

You might think that, when a state law is struck down as unconstitutional, by a 9-0 decision of the US Supreme Court, the legislators who passed that law would feel chastened.

Not in Massachusetts.

Reacting with almost comical haste to the unanimous Supreme Court decision that overturned a law that held set up 35-foot “buffer zones” outside abortion clinics, the Massachusetts legislature is rushing to enact a new bill that would satisfy the urgent demands of Planned Parenthood. A final vote is expected tomorrow, and the result is not in doubt. Massachusetts is effectively a one-party state, with the Democratic Party firmly in control, and the impotent Republican establishment avoids issues like abortion anyway.

No one has established a need for new legislation. There have been no credible reports of violence, threats, or blockades at any abortion clinic in Massachusetts in the past 15 years. Police are available to enforce the existing law, which carries a stiff 2-year prison term for blocking a clinic entrance. Despite ubiquitous security cameras, abortionists have failed to provide any evidence of untoward behavior by sidewalk counselors. Nevertheless the new law will be passed on an “emergency” basis, so that it will go into effect without the usual 90-day waiting period.

The new law would allow police officers, acting on their own discretion, to banish “groups” of as few as 2 people from the sidewalks outside clinics. The old, unconstitutional law set up a 35-foot buffer zone; this new law authorizes police to order people away from a 25-foot zone if they decide that access has been impeded.

If you think this bill sounds crazy, wait until you hear how the solons of Massachusetts have gone about their task of legislation. Last week, after a whirlwind hearing, the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts reported:

Yesterday, in a complete travesty of the democratic process, a public hearing was held on the new buffer zone bill, and before the scheduled end of the hearing, the measure was reported out of two committees, passed through three Senate readings, and passed to be engrossed by the Massachusetts Senate! The bill had only been filed on Monday night, July 14th, the text was not made available until Tuesday afternoon, July 15th, and less than 36 hours notice was given for the hearing.

When the Supreme Court overturned the “buffer-zone” law, Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley welcomed the decision, saying:

This now overturned legislation reflects an ominous trend in our society. Abortion supporters, having long denied that unborn children have a right to life, would deny that their fellow Americans who seek to protect the unborn have the same rights as other Americans – the right to freedom of speech and freedom of association; the right to participate in the public square and serve the vulnerable in accord with our moral convictions.

To date—with a vote scheduled tomorrow—neither the Boston archdiocese nor the Massachusetts Catholic Conference has issued a public statement on the outrageous new proposal and the unseemly rush to approve it.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: winnie - May. 12, 2017 11:53 AM ET USA

    "Poetry is not Important" reminds me of all the beautiful and also tragic lines of poetry that live in my heart and often bubble to the surface. Archibald MacLiesh said it best in Ars Poetica: A poem should not mean, but be.

  • Posted by: brenda22890 - May. 06, 2017 9:51 AM ET USA

    Thomas, I enjoy all this so much. Thank you!

  • Posted by: Defender - Jul. 23, 2014 2:13 AM ET USA

    Cardinal O’Malley should resign as Chair of the USCCB’s Pro-life Committee, as he has said nothing about this. He also was present at BC to honor SecState Kerry, who is pro-abortion, pro-SSM, etc. Now this...

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Jul. 22, 2014 9:16 PM ET USA

    Outstanding! This shows you what legislators can do when motivated by the money and political reward provided by the culture of death: The speed, the efficiency, and completed before the opposition can react.