Session Law

2014

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Chapter 197 AN ACT TO PROMOTE PUBLIC SAFETY AND PROTECT ACCESS TO REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CARE FACILITIES

     Whereas, The deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to protect forthwith access to reproductive health care facilities, therefore it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public safety.

     Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same as follows:
     SECTION 1. Section 11H of chapter 12 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2012 Official Edition, is hereby amended by adding the following paragraph:-
     If the attorney general prevails in an action under this section, the attorney general shall be entitled to: (i) an award of compensatory damages for any aggrieved person or entity; and (ii) litigation costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees in an amount to be determined by the court.  In a matter involving the interference or attempted interference with any right protected by the constitution of the United States or of the commonwealth, the court may also award civil penalties against each defendant in an amount not exceeding $5,000 for each violation.
     SECTION 2.  Chapter 266 of the General Laws is hereby amended by striking out section 120E½, as so appearing, and inserting in place thereof the following section:-
     Section 120E½.  (a) As used in this section, the following words shall have the following meanings unless the context clearly requires otherwise:
     “Driveway”, an entry from a public street to a public or private parking area used by a reproductive health care facility.
     “Entrance”, a door to a reproductive health care facil  ity that directly abuts the public sidewalk; provided, however, that if the door does not directly abut the public sidewalk, the “entrance” shall be the point at which the public sidewalk intersects with a pathway leading to the door.
     “Impede”, to obstruct, block, detain or render passage impossible, unsafe or unreasonably difficult.
     “Law enforcement official”, a duly authorized member of a law enforcement agency, including a member of a municipal, metropolitan or state police department, sheriffs or deputy sheriffs.
     “Reproductive health care facility”, a place, other than within or upon the grounds of a hospital, where abortions are offered or performed including, but not limited to, the building, grounds and driveway of the facility and a parking lot in which the facility has an ownership or leasehold interest.
     (b)  A law enforcement official may order the immediate withdrawal of 1 or more individuals who have on that day substantially impeded access to or departure from an entrance or driveway to a reproductive health care facility.  A withdrawal order issued pursuant to this section shall be in writing and shall include the following statements: (i) the individual or individuals have substantially impeded access to or departure from the reproductive health care facility; (ii) the individual or individuals so ordered shall, under the penalty of arrest and prosecution, immediately withdraw and cease to stand or be located within at least 25 feet of an entrance or driveway to the reproductive health care facility; and (iii) the order shall remain in place for 8 hours or until the close of business of the reproductive health facility, whichever is earlier.  This subsection shall apply during the business hours of a reproductive health care facility. This subsection shall also apply only if the 25-foot boundary is clearly marked and subsections (a) through (c), inclusive, of this section are posted outside of the reproductive health care facility.
     (c)  A person who fails to comply with a withdrawal order pursuant to subsection (b) shall be punished, for the first offense, by a fine of not more than $500 or not more than 3 months in a jail or house of correction or by both such fine and imprisonment and, for each subsequent offense, by a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $5,000 or not more than 2½ years in a jail or house of correction or by both such fine and imprisonment.
     (d)  A person who, by force, physical act or threat of force, intentionally injures or intimidates or attempts to injure or intimidate a person who attempts to access or depart from a reproductive health care facility shall be punished, for the first offense, by a fine of not more than $2,000 or not more than 1 year in a jail or house of correction or by both such fine and imprisonment and, for each subsequent offense, by a fine of not less than $10,000 nor more than $50,000 or not more than 2½ years in a jail or house of correction or not more than 5 years in a state prison or by both such fine and imprisonment. For the purpose of this subsection, “intimidate” shall mean to place a person in reasonable apprehension of bodily harm to that person or another. 
     (e)  A person who impedes a person’s access to or departure from a reproductive health care facility with the intent to interfere with that person’s ability to provide, support the provision of or obtain services at the reproductive health care facility shall be punished, for the first offense, by a fine of not more than $1,000 or not more than 6 months in a jail or house of correction or by both such fine and imprisonment and, for each subsequent offense, by a fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $25,000 or not more than 2½ years in a jail or house of correction or not more than 5 years in the state prison or by both such fine and imprisonment.
     (f)  A person who knowingly impedes or attempts to impede a person or a vehicle attempting to access or depart from a reproductive health care facility shall be punished, for the first offense, by a fine of not more than $500 or not more than 3 months in a jail or house of correction or by both such fine and imprisonment and, for each subsequent offense, by a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000 or not more than 2½ years in a jail or house of correction or by both such fine and imprisonment.
     (g)  A person who recklessly interferes with the operation of a vehicle that attempts to enter, exit or park at a reproductive health care facility shall be punished, for the first offense, by a fine of not more than $500 or not more than 3 months in a jail or house of correction or by both such fine and imprisonment and, for each subsequent offense, by a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000 or not more than 2½ years in a jail or house of correction or by both such fine and imprisonment. 
     (h)  A person who fails to comply with a withdrawal order pursuant to said subsection (b) or who is found in violation of subsection (c), (d), (e), (f) or (g) may be arrested without a warrant by a law enforcement official.
     (i)  If a person or entity fails to comply with a withdrawal order pursuant to subsection (b) or who is found in violation of subsection (c), (d), (e), (f) or (g), an aggrieved person or entity or the attorney general or both may commence a civil action. The civil action shall be commenced either in the superior court for the county in which the conduct complained of occurred or in the superior court for the county in which the person or entity complained of resides or has a principal place of business.
     (j)  In an action pursuant to subsection (i), a court may award as remedies: (1) temporary, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief; (2) compensatory and punitive damages; and (3) costs, attorneys’ fees and expert witness fees. In an action brought by the attorney general pursuant to subsection (i), the court may also award civil penalties against each defendant in an amount not exceeding: (A) $5,000 for a nonviolent violation and $7,500 for other first violations; and (B) $7,500 for a subsequent nonviolent violation and $12,500 for any other subsequent violation.
     (k)  A violation of an injunction entered by a court in an action brought pursuant to subsection (i) shall be a criminal offense under section 11J of chapter 12.

Approved, July 30, 2014.