Abortion rights activists and lawmakers are backing new legislation to expand state-protected buffer zones around abortion clinics.
Currently, state law mandates a 6-foot buffer zone around patients within an 18-foot radius of a clinic entrance and prohibits anyone from approaching without their consent for the purpose of passing leaflets or ''engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling."
Abortion rights supporters say they want to amend the law to create something similar to their original proposal, which was for a fixed zone of 25 feet.
''Right now it's very hard to enforce," said Melissa Kogut, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts. ''It's a moving zone. Protesters still are able to harass women as they are going in."
Kogut said she's been told by the bill's authors that the legislation will call for ''a fixed buffer zone, 35 feet." Spokesmen for the authors, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and state Senator Jarrett Barrios, would not comment. They're holding a news conference next Wednesday.
The US Supreme Court in April declined to hear an appeal by antiabortion protesters who challenged the Massachusetts law.
Antiabortion groups say the zones unfairly become places where only abortion rights rhetoric is permitted.
Marilyn Birnie, founder and director of Quincy-based Friends of the Unborn, said protesters are peaceful and ''are there to offer alternatives."
''As Americans, we have the right to free speech," she said. ''We have a right to stand wherever we want and speak our mind. We should have no buffer zone at all."
Massachusetts Citizens for Life, the antiabortion group that challenged the law in court, did not return a call from the Associated Press on Friday.
State lawmakers began pushing for a buffer zone after John Salvi walked into two Boston-area clinics in 1994 and opened fire, killing two receptionists and wounding five others. He killed himself in prison in 1996.
Five years ago, former House Speaker Tom Finneran, who is antiabortion, negotiated a compromise bill creating the 6-foot ''bubble zone" within the 18-foot buffer zone. The Senate had passed a 25-foot fixed buffer zone.