Governor Deval L. Patrick
Testimony before the Judiciary Committee
State House, Boston, MA
July 16, 2014

Chairman Brownsberger, Chairman Markey and members of the Committee: 

Good afternoon and thank you for convening this hearing, and for doing so, so quickly.  In light of the important public safety and reproductive health issues addressed in this bill, it is very gratifying and very encouraging.

I confess that the Supreme Court’s June 26th decision confuses me.  It’s hard for me to understand, given the Court’s modern jurisprudence, a conclusion that says one person’s constitutional right cannot be exercised without infringing another person’s constitutional right.  Fortunately, the Court provided us with a road map to follow to what would be constitutionally acceptable, and this bill proposes that course.

The issues at stake are not abstract.  Women and men seeking access to reproductive health care services face human fences that obstruct their paths, protesters pacing in driveways to make it harder to pull into the parking lot, and signs used to obstruct a patient’s access to the door. 

From intimidation to outright killing, experience in the Commonwealth has demonstrated that there is a pressing need to ensure that women and men seeking reproductive health services can do so safely and without harassment, and that the employees of those facilities can arrive at work each day without fear of harm.

A person who objects to abortion has a right to express that view.  But a person seeking health care also has the right to feel safe.  The Court demands we better balance these rights.  The bill before you today – the Safe Access Bill – strikes that balance.

The right to choose whether to keep an unwanted pregnancy is deeply personal and a matter for patients to work through with the help of family, faith and medical advice.  That requires and deserves an appropriate and safe environment.  This bill accomplishes that by enhancing existing laws and creating new protections that promote public safety.  

Neither our commitment to protecting a woman’s right to access reproductive care, nor our dedication to the First Amendment, have changed. The Safe Access Bill speaks to those constant truths, and will allow Massachusetts once again to assure that a woman’s ability to seek reproductive health care services in the Commonwealth is secure.

Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thanks to the Committee for your swift action.  I also want to thank Senate President Murray, Speaker DeLeo, Attorney General Coakley, Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, NARAL and the many others who have worked with us on this bill.  Along with many thousands of our citizens, I am counting on the Legislature to pass this bill quickly.

Thank you all for your time and thoughtful consideration.