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Group Warns Mass. Lawmakers Any New Buffer Zone Legislation Could Face Legal Challenge

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The buffer zone in yellow outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Boston. (WBZ-TV)

The buffer zone in yellow outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Boston. (WBZ-TV)

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts lawmakers should proceed cautiously to avoid future lawsuits as they consider altering security rules around abortion clinics in the wake of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, a group that opposes abortion said Tuesday.

In a letter sent to all House and Senate members, Massachusetts Citizens for Life expressed concern about legislation being crafted “that in all likelihood will lead to more litigation,” because it could infringe on the rights of anti-abortion protesters to use public sidewalks to speak with or distribute literature to women entering a clinic.

In last month’s unanimous decision, the high court struck down the state’s 35-foot buffer zone law, deeming it a restraint on the free-speech rights of anti-abortion protesters.

Attorney General Martha Coakley and Gov. Deval Patrick have said a bill was being prepared that would address the concerns of the justices, with the hope it could be approved before the legislative session ends July 31. The specifics of the proposal have yet to be announced.

In their letter, leaders of Massachusetts Citizens for Life said the buffer zone law, passed seven years ago, also came with assurances that it would stand up in court.

“As you consider voting on the attorney general’s new proposal, please think carefully as to whether or not the latest version will pass constitutional muster. Remember, she convinced you before that her bill would do so, and she was dead wrong,” the letter stated.

Coakley, in a statement, reiterated her intention to protect access to clinics while respecting the rights of protesters.

“Women deserve to be able to access their constitutional right to reproductive health care free from intimidation and threats,” she said.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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