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Public hearing on new Mass. “buffer zone” bill a disgraceful sham. Rushed through Senate -- now on to House on Wed. 7/23
Ignoring pro-family testimony, bill was pushed through 2 committees and passed full Senate within minutes of end of hearing.
Battle expected in House this Wednesday (July 23)! You can take action.
POSTED: July 22, 2014
In many ways the Massachusetts “buffer zone bill” saga isn’t really just about the abortion issue. It’s a stunning preview of what we can expect from the iron-fist politics of the Left in the age of Obama. Long-time State House observers we’ve talked to cannot recall anything like this.
Pro-lifers kept in the dark until last minute
The public, including pro-life groups, had almost no notice at all of the hearing, despite the “48-hour” notification rule. It wasn’t even listed on the State House website until the afternoon before it took place -– with two starting times.
The text of the bill wasn’t posted for the public until after the hearing ended. The Senate Clerk’s office refused to release a copy beforehand. The only way to get a copy was to appeal so someone in the sponsor’s office.
Our side did the best it could, given the very short notice and difficulty getting a copy of the text.
On the other hand, the Planned Parenthood people obviously had several days’ notice. They brought in numerous public officials, including the Governor, Attorney General, Boston Police Commissioner, and about a dozen state legislators. And they scheduled several panels and various “experts” with carefully crafted testimony. They all seemed to have no had problem getting the text of the bill.
Decision to televise hearing quietly reversed
Hearings of this high interest are often streamed live. The day before the hearing, the House Speaker's office told Catch of the Day Video News that the hearing would be televised. The House Counsel and the Senate Counsel said the same thing. They insisted that everything was in place. But mysteriously, it didn’t happen. Later the State House Broadcast Unit claimed they “had not been contacted by anyone.”
As usual, conservatives forced to testify last - but came on strong!
When the hearing started, the Committee played their usual game: They made the pro-family people testify last. This has been a standing joke at the State House for years and it’s intentionally very demeaning. Of course, elected officials (because they are so important!) are always immediately allowed to testify whenever they show up.
The pro-Planned Parenthood people greatly outnumbered the pro-family people due to their financial and organizational resources. Panel after panel came forth and read their testimony.
All the pro-abortion testimony was basically the same. They all talked in emotional detail about crimes and harassment that supposedly happened outside of abortion clinics before the 2007 buffer zone law was passed, and are being repeated now that it’s been struck down. And they demanded that women be able to have abortions “without being judged” by others who might be standing there.
Excellent pro-family testimony
The pro-family side, in general, gave excellent testimony in rebuttal, especially given the short notice.
They pointed out to the Committee –- as the Supreme Court even observed -- that none of those lurid, horrible crimes allegedly committed outside of abortion clinics have been documented. Planned Parenthood could produce no record of convictions, no arrests, no video, no photos. It’s all just talk.
They also showed how this bill is simply a way to suppress pro-life free speech. (1) It is clearly unconstitutional, with its “dispersion” language, newly defined buffer zone, and outrageously high punishments directed at pro-lifers. (2) Virtually everything it purports to “protect” the clinic patrons from is already illegal and prosecutable under current laws.
No part of this bill should become law. Pro-family State Reps, attorneys, and others implored the Committee to take some time and think this through and not rush it.
The testimony didn't matter - the fix was in
Ultimately, none of this mattered to the majority of Committee members. The fix was in. The party line must be followed. The hearing was just a formality in getting the bill rushed through as fast as possible.
At about 4:00 pm, after six hours, there were no more people who wanted to testify. So the committee called a 10-minute recess. Then they came back into the room, discussed bill for a few quick minutes, then took a quick vote. It passed 10-3 (The two Republicans present and a conservative Democrat voted “no”.) At 4:20 pm the hearing room emptied out.
Then things really got going. By 6:00 pm that evening the bill had been:
Usually on something this contentious –- especially a bill like this answering a US Supreme Court ruling –- one would expect at least the façade of legislative decorum and gravitas.
Amendment makes bill even worse
Sen. Chandler’s amendment took an unconstitutional bill and made it even more ouutrageous, in our opinion. The bill’s original “dispersal” language allowed police to “disperse” any crowd of two or more people and, without any due process, force them outside a 25-foot buffer zone. After the amendment, the bill now applies to one or more people –- i.e., anyone at all -- and thus changes the word “disperse” to “withdraw”. Police can require anyone they choose, without due process, to be outside of the buffer zone -– which the US Supreme Court has basically already declared unconstitutional –- under threat of outrageous fines and punishment.
The big battle: Wednesday in the House
We were told by the House Clerk’s office that the next formal session of the House will be on Wednesday, July 23. Bill S2283 will unquestionably be taken up.
We’ve been told that they will allow debate on the bill (imagine that!), and we anticipate that it will be fierce. The pro-life members of the House, led by Reps. Jim Lyons and Marc Lombardo, are unafraid to go to the mat on this, and make the House members understand how abusive, unnecessary, and unconstitutional this bill is. They will note that it will surely end up in court, and likely be struck down again. They will point out that all the “horror stories” are undocumented lies.
Here's what to tell your legislators about Bill S2283: