H7837: Defines additional criminal penalties and civil remedies for assaults intended to interfere with “obtaining or providing reproductive health services” or with “exercising or seeking to exercise…[the] right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Mar 11)
This bill does not go as far as the Massachusetts law currently being challenged at the US Supreme Court, which prohibits let’s-call-them “unauthorized” individuals from standing within 35 feet of the entrance of an abortion clinic; the first section of this bill applies only to actions which involve “force”, “the threat of force” or “physical obstruction” intended to interfere with “obtaining or providing reproductive health services”.
Supposedly the second section of the bill treats “force”, “the threat of force” or “physical obstruction” intended to interfere with the “right of religious freedom” on equal footing — but it doesn’t.
The protection while “obtaining or providing reproductive health services” does not mention any specific location, yet the protection for freedom of religion does. Protection for “religious freedom” is applied only at “a place of religious worship”, meaning that, for example, if someone wants to say a prayer before, during or after a rally at the statehouse, this particular law provides no barrier to someone else deciding to use the threat of force to intimidate them into not doing so.
The narrowing of the basic definition of religious freedom into something that only happens at places that the government decides are “places of religious worship” is an unacceptable and cynical component of this bill. Don’t fall for this bill being some sort of compromise.