Cotter, president of Operation Rescue: Boston, testified at the public hearing that pro-life activists have been assaulted outside clinics. He said that they, unlike the pro-abortion lobby, have been able to present evidence in court proceedings, something he said the Planned Parenthood facility in Boston, which has surveillance cameras surrounding it, has never done.
"In ten-plus years since (the cameras) have been out there, they haven’t produced five seconds of footage showing these alleged crimes, whereas this is supposed to be going on continually," Cotter said.
"It should have been relatively easy to have a couple of video recordings to present to the Legislature and to the public to say, ‘Look, here’s why we need this bill. Here are examples of what happens,’" said Beckwith, who is concerned that the new discretionary buffer zone law will have a chilling effect on sidewalk counselors and pro-life demonstrators.
"Before you go and try to counsel someone, you have to worry about getting sued into oblivion by Planned Parenthood, which had a press conference standing arm-in-arm with the attorney general," Beckwith said. "This bill is about retaliation and intimidation by Planned Parenthood against pro-life counselors because they were extremely angry about being embarrassed in front of the Supreme Court. Obviously, that is not why we should be making law."
Many believe the new buffer zone law will face another constitutional challenge.
"I think it’s fair to say someone at some point will be challenging this new law as unconstitutional on the same lines that the other law was challenged," Driscoll said.
"We’ll know more details once we see the actual nuts and bolts of how this law gets worked out in the real world," Beckwith added.
Cotter, who said Operation Rescue: Boston helped prevent 64 abortions last year by changing people’s minds outside clinics, said he also fears the new law will scare some people from praying or counseling outside clinics.
"However, if the new law is honestly applied, it’s not going to hamper us at all," Cotter said. "We’re going to have continued access to areas of the sidewalk that were formerly forbidden. I’m sure that will improve our results."
Brian Fraga is a daily newspaper reporter who writes from Fall River, Massachusetts.