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Railroaded through: New buffer zone bill passes House by 119 to 33 despite passionate debate from pro-family Reps. Quickly signed into law by Governor.
Constitutional issues ignored. Court challenge very likely.
POSTED: July 30, 2014
On Wednesday, July 23, the new Massachusetts “buffer zone” bill faced its only hurdle, a passionate 4-hour debate and over a dozen attempted amendments by a core of pro-family legislators.
That afternoon the initial vote was 116-35. The final House vote of 119-33 came on Tuesday, July 29. It was not entirely on party lines; ten Democrats voted “no” and six Republicans voted “yes” including some surprises (e.g., Rep. Jay Barrows, Rep Lenny Mirra). See the final roll call here.
There was one minor amendment, sponsored by Democrats, introduced and passed in the House. The Senate quickly concurred, negating the need for a conference committee. All of the Senate votes were by purposefully “voice vote” to avoid being recorded.
The Governor wasted no time signing the bill the following day, July 30, surrounded by pro-abortion legislators. It has an “emergency preamble” and thus will go into effect immediately instead of after the normal 90-day waiting period.
House debate: Constitution? Rule of law? Fairness? Sense of proportion?
We probably owe an apology to the Chinese Communists for comparing them to the Massachusetts Legislature in our earlier report. The unwavering pro-abortion bloc, which makes up a majority of the Massachusetts House, made it clear that no arguments or reasoning about constitutionality, lawfulness, fairness, sense of proportion or even a recent 9-0 US Supreme Court ruling would stop them. It must be rushed through immediately.
Rep. Christopher Fallon (D-Malden) made it clear during the House debate:
Massachusetts, since I’ve been here for 18 years, has been the leader on many controversial issues. Gay marriage. We must take the lead. We must push the envelope. We must pass this statute. And if it gets appealed up to the Supreme Court, so be it. But we have to be the leader . . . Let’s lead as we have done on so many other issues. And let the Supreme Court make a decision, if they’re going to, on what we’re about to pass this afternoon.
To paraphrase: “We don’t need no stinkin’ constitution. We’re morally superior. And that’s all that matters.” That was the sentiment in the House chamber that day.
But no new law needed at all, said US Supreme Court
On the other hand, the 9-0 U.S. Supreme Court ruling basically said that Massachusetts never needed a buffer zone law at all, and that the previous law was simply a method to intimidate pro-lifers and take away their First Amendment rights.
The Court observed in its ruling: (1) There had not been a single prosecution against a pro-lifer in 17 years, including 10 years before the previous buffer zone was enacted (or since it was struck down); and (2) There are already numerous federal and state laws on the books to deal effectively with all the problems the Commonwealth cites.
That unanimous ruling included even the far-left Justices. But that didn’t make any difference with the pro-abortionists in the Massachusetts Legislature.
Long, passionate debate in House by pro-life Reps
The debate in the House lasted four hours, thanks to a relentless fight by a core group of pro-family legislators.
Rep. Jim Lyons (R-Andover) led the charge and did most of the speaking. He got help from Republican Reps.. Marc Lombardo, Keiko Orrall, Sheila Harrington, Paul Frost, Vinnie deMacedo, Geoff Diehl, and Democrat Rep. Colleen Garry. They came well prepared and put up a very passionate and impressive fight. You can listen to it (part one and part two) here.
They demonstrated very convincingly this new bill is clearly unconstitutional, unnecessarily onerous, and one-sided against pro-life people – and that it’s been rushed through the process much too quickly and will very soon be back in court. (And the Commonwealth’s defense of it will be another waste of taxpayer dollars!)
Lyons spoke very passionately: “Don’t rush it through because Planned Parenthood, Attorney General Coakley and Governor Patrick say do it now.” He said the bill was written to take First Amendment rights away from a limited group. He pointed out that the biased Attorney General was (unethically) working with only pro-abortion groups to create this bill, because, she said, “We’re not going to let the Supreme Court have the last word.”
Almost immediately, Lyons moved to postpone debate until August 1. When that failed, he moved to have the Judiciary Committee study it further and come back with recommendations. That was also voted down.
From that point, the pro-family contingent introduced over a dozen amendments dealing with the bill’s obvious unconstitutionality, and its glaring unfairness: its harsh punishments, its overly long statute of limitations, the Attorney General's ability to impose onerous civil penalties in addition to high criminal penalties, option for police to act arbitrarily, different punishments for one's presence in front of abortion clinics versus any other building, etc.
All of these were very well reasoned and sensible arguments. The Reps were able to force roll call votes every step of the way. Nevertheless, all of the pro-family amendments were rejected overwhelmingly by the pro-abortion majority in the House.
What about the topic of abortion itself?
Interestingly, nobody brought up the elephant in the room -- the reason that pro-lifers feel impelled to go to abortion clinics. No one said that abortion is murder, often done in a particularly gruesome manner, even though it’s “legal” and supposedly “settled law.” Maybe they felt that saying that would set the pro-abortion politicians into an angry frenzy. We believe that leaving out the core issue that out seriously depreciates our arguments.
Pro-abortion Reps pushed the party line hard
On the pro-abortion side, Rep. Chris Markey (D-Dartmouth) was main mouthpiece, with help from Democrat Reps. Paul Fallon,. Ann-Margaret Ferrante, Paul Mark, Marjorie Decker, and a few others.
Their arguments were, in our opinion, dishonest and misleading and were often quite angry in tone. Basically, they all kept repeating the Planned Parenthood party line that (1) abortion clinics have become violent and dangerous and places where patrons are regularly harassed because of pro-lifers, and (2) these are actually “reproductive health facilities” and most women go there for normal medical issues rather than abortions.
(All the evidence we’ve ever seen has been that the overwhelming activity in those buildings is abortions and that it accounts for over 90% of Planned Parenthood’s revenues there.)
These points were repeated by virtually every pro-abortion speaker that afternoon. And of course, they also brought up the murders by (mentally ill) John Salvi in1994, the 150-foot restriction around voting areas during elections, and other unrelated issues.
Then near the end, Rep. Markey introduced an amendment to lower some of the onerous fines in the bill. This was apparently a strategy to make it appear less obviously biased and excessive against pro-lifers. The amendment passed easily. Soon afterwards the bill itself passed the House.
But what's really happening at the Planned Parenthood clinic?
The propaganda about alleged dangerous, out of control pro-lifers is one thing but the facts are something else. Two days after the House debate and vote, on Saturday, July 26, this was the scene at the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic in Boston. [Photos from Operation Rescue Boston]
Note: The new law would not affect these people -- only pro-lifers. There was an amendment introduced to make it "equal" but the House overwhelmingly voted it down.
After the vote: The propaganda from politicians continues . . .
The day after the House vote, Senate President Therese Murray, an aggressive supporter of abortion, was still angry that anyone even questioned the new bill. She was still passionately repeating the Planned Parenthood party line.
Here is the State House News account of a radio interview she did that day:
“It’s not a buffer zone,” Murray said of the proposal, which the House approved on Wednesday. “It’s a dispersal area and you only get dispersed if you accost somebody so I think it falls within the civil rights of everyone on both sides of this issue.”
Murray also appeared to take issue with the host’s use of the word abortion while introducing his question. “These are not abortion areas,” the Plymouth Democrat said. “You can get abortion services there. They’re few and far between. These are mostly reproductive health clinics for poor women who need to access health care.”
This is surely a prelude to what we’ll be hearing the day the Governor signs the bill into law.
Not to be outdone, Sen. Harriette Chandler, the bill’s official sponsor, made this absurd claim in the Boston Globe the day of the Governor’s signing:
Senator Harriette L. Chandler, a Worcester Democrat who backed the bill, said its language came directly from the Supreme Court ruling, which suggested Massachusetts could replace the buffer zone law by beefing up laws concerning intimidation and obstruction. “It will stand up to constitutional muster. It must stand up to constitutional muster,” Chandler said at the ceremony. “Our women must be safe.”
That’s not exactly true. The language of the Supreme Court ruling said that the alleged “problems” of intimidation and obstruction are already covered under existing laws. Those laws could be “beefed up” but should not apply to only pro-lifers at abortion clinics as the new law does.
Judging from the testimony of the Boston Police Commissioner at the public hearing, we’re sure that the Boston Police are eager to use their new arbitrary powers to subdue pro-lifers under threat of harsh criminal and civil punishments.
We expect this absurd law will be challenged in court very soon.