Pro-family activism that makes a difference!

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.

Right after the public hearing, Operation Rescue Boston posted this photo of the Communist Chinese Central Committee. Apparently a model for the Mass. Legislature.

The public hearing by the Joinit Judiciary Committee of the Massachusetts Legislature on bill SD 2106 was about as shameful and phony as we’ve seen in almost 20 years.

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.

Gardner Auditorium at the State House wasn't as full as one would expect for a hearing like this. It appeared that most of those who came were pro-Planned Parenthood. [All photos from hearing by MassResistance]

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.

Mass. Governor Deval Patrick testified that we must "protect access to women's health."

Senate President Therese Murray, rather arrogantly: "Why do we even have to be talking about this?"

Attorney General Martha Coakley -- the same old blather about stopping (alleged) violence and intimidation.

A contingent of far-left State Reps and Senators came and stood behind the sponsor, Sen. Harriette Chandler as she read a speech about alleged terrible behavior by pro-lifers when women seek "medical services."

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.

Marty Walz, president of Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts read the same speech about alleged out-of-control pro-lifers that she's been peddling everywhere.

William Evans, City of Boston Police Commissioner said that harrassment against clinic patients and blocking of entrances has been so bad that they need a large contingent of police, especially on weekends. But when a committee member asked him for specifics, he admitted he had no documentation of such incidents, no arrests, and nothing on paper he could submit.

One of several Planned Parenthood panels of employees and volunteers with carefully scripted speeches about "abusive" pro-lifers.

And of course, no abortion hearing would be complete without liberal clergy dressed to look "official" in an attempt to lend "moral" authority to it.

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.

Eleanor McCullen, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, gave wonderful testimony about what sidewalk counselors really do! Beside her are State Rep. Jim Lyons (left) and Attorney Philip Moran, who both gave outstanding testimony.

These women from Massachusetts Citizens for Life listed all the current laws that already cover any alleged wrongdoing that the new bill purports to address.

The panel from Operation Rescue Boston gave such compelling factual testimony that the committee members kept asking Bill Cotter more questions.

Rep. Marc Lombardo was one of only two pro-life legislators (along with Rep. Lyons) who came to testify.

Brian Camenker of MassResistance reminded the Committee that the only actual convictions of crimes outside of abortion clinics in the last 20 years were against pro-abortion people who assaulted and intimidated pro-lifers.

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.

The committee members appeared to be seriously considering the testimony,
but in fact the fix was in.

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.

The Senate Chairman, William Brownsberger and the House Chairman, Christopher Markey, wasted no time pushing it through once the testimony ended.

Then things really got going. By 6:00 pm that evening the bill had been:

1. Renamed as S2281
2. Sent to and passed by the Rules Committee
3. Sent to the full Senate
4. Passed second reading in Senate
5. Amendment written by sponsor (Sen. Chandler) passed by Senate
6. Passed third reading in Senate
7. Passed by Senate (voice vote – with no roll call)
8. Renamed, as amended, as S2283, and sent to House

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.

See text of S2283 HERE. See State House version HERE.

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.

What you should do right now:  If you live in Massachusetts, find out who your State Rep is and call his office (or his home), tell him you are a constituent. If you can, visit him at the State House. 

Here's what to tell your legislators about Bill S2283:

(1) It’s clearly unconstitutional, with its “withdrawal” language without due process, a new buffer zone, and outrageously high punishments directed at pro-lifers.

(2) Everything is purports to “protect” the public from is already illegal and prosecutable under current laws.

(3) The emotional stories of crimes outside of abortion clinics have no documentation, arrests, prosecutions, video, etc. –- as the US Supreme Court itself observed.