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Massachusetts governor signs law limiting protests at abortion clinics

BOSTON (Reuters) - Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick on Wednesday signed into law a measure allowing to police to order anti-abortion protesters away from clinic entrances if their presence impedes public access.

The measure comes a month after the U.S. Supreme Court knocked down a 2007 Massachusetts law prohibiting protests within 35 feet (11 meters) of the entrances of reproductive health facilities, a measure that the top court found violated the right to freedom of speech.

"I am incredibly proud to sign legislation that continues Massachusetts leadership in ensuring that women seeking to access reproductive health facilities can do so safely and without harassment," Patrick said after signing the measure.

The law will allow police to order protesters to move 25 feet (8 meters) away from clinic entrances for eight hours if they block access. State officials, who drafted the bill quickly after the Supreme Court decision, said the new approach was modeled on similar laws elsewhere that had withstood legal challenges.

Anti-abortion activists had criticized the legislation, saying it would have a chilling effect on speech.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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