Boston cardinal chides new Massachusetts buffer zone law

Cardinal Sean O'Malley speaks with CNA in Rome on Feb. 4, 2013. Credit: Stephen Driscoll/CNA.

Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston has criticized a new Massachusetts law re-establishing buffer zones around abortion clinics after the old law was recently struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In an Aug. 1 statement, the cardinal lamented that “the effect again is to make it very difficult for citizens seeking to offer alternatives to women contemplating an abortion.”

The law would forbid anyone from “substantially impeding” access to an abortion clinic. If this occurred, police could issue a dispersal order and place the protesters 25 feet away from the entrance or driveway at the building.

After the old “buffer zone” law forbade sidewalk counseling within 35 feet of an abortion clinic, the Supreme Court on June 26 ruled it a violation of the First Amendment. The law imposed “serious burdens” on the counselors, the court wrote, adding that sidewalks have traditionally been a forum for “the exchange of ideas.”

However, the new law establishes yet another buffer zone after the court unanimously struck down the old one, Cardinal O'Malley said.

“The Massachusetts legislature acted with unseemly haste to establish what amounts to a new buffer zone of 25 feet,” he stated.

The new law has “potential” to be worse than the old one because it leaves room for broad interpretation of “vague” language, said the pro-life group Massachusetts Citizens for Life.

“There's a serious problem with it because we don't know how the police will enforce it,” the group's president Anne Fox told CNA.

“The way it's written, if they (the clinic) opened at 8 every morning, they could call the police at five past eight every morning and say there’s somebody here detaining people. And the police would come and put everybody outside for the rest of the day.”

A sidewalk counselor distributing pro-life literature to a clinic-goer, for instance, could be interpreted by police as “detaining” that person, and the two of them together on the sidewalk could be termed a “gathering,” both being illegal acts under the new law. The result could be a dispersal order and a fine of up to $1,000 or up to six months in jail.

“And the penalties are incredible,” Fox said. “These are so disproportionate.”

“The whole thing just reeks of just out to get the pro-lifers,” she added.


Voices

Easter and beyond

Anne Hansen

We move quickly from our major religious holidays each year. It’s not intentional. Life hurries along and as soon as the sun sets on one holiday the next is being touted by merchants looking to sell us whatever the next big day brings. To remain in the spirit of the religious holiday — in this case Easter — takes deliberate intention.

The Holy Father visits the Holy Land

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April 25, 2015

  • Saturday, April 25

    Super Groovy 5K Run/Walk, 8 a.m., Woodley Park, 6350 Woodley Ave, Van Nuys. Sponsored by St. Euphrasia School, this year’s “Super Groovy” theme celebrates the school’s 50th anniversary of its founding in 1964 and serves as a tribute to that nostalgic era of peace and love — the 60’s. At the finish line, all runners and walkers will be puffed with clouds of psychodelic color. Registration $25-$40. For more information, contact Susie Sempelsz, (818) 488-1598. info@knights5k.org.

    5th Annual Car Show, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Junipero Serra High School, 14830 S Van Ness Ave., Gardena. Featuring classics, hot rods, and muscle cars as well as food, music, vendors and raffles. (310) 324-6675. la-serrahs.org.

    Challenge Weekend for Men, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and April 26, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Povorello Retreat House, 1519 Woodworth St., San Fernando. Presented by St. John Eudes and Our Lady of Grace Men’s Fellowships. Men will not board overnight; lunch is provided both days. $90 or donation. Register at knowingweekend.eventbrite.com. For more information, contact Fred Perez, (818) 749-5126.

    First Annual Sacred Heart High School Gala, 5 p.m., Los Angeles City College New Student Activities Center, 855 N Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. Proceeds from the event, themed “United to Empower,” will benefit the Comet Scholarship Fund.



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