Governor Deval L. Patrick
New Buffer Zone Bill Signed into Law
November 13, 2007
Well welcome everyone. I am very pleased to be joined by President Murray, by Speaker DiMasi, by Secretary Burke, by the members of the House and Senate who are here. To all of you, to sing a bill that strikes an appropriate balance between the freedom of choice and the freedom of expression. We had, for a long time now, a series of laws that have been mostly un-enforceable to enable women to get the reproductive health services to which they are entitled and to which they so desperately need. We have had to find a better balance than the current past law allowed so there was not the level of harassment and intimidation in the exercise of that right but, so there was also a reasonable opportunity for people who have a different view to express that view. We believe that with the legislation, we have struck that better balance. The freedom of choice is secure here in this Commonwealth, and we are all proud of that and we mean for it to be exercised without intimidation and harassment. We also mean to respect the reasonable right to express themselves of people who have a different view. I want to say thank you to the main sponsors of this bill, Senators Fargo and Chandler and Timilty and Tisei, all of whom are here. Representative Walsh could not be here, Representative Sciortino showed great leadership indeed, as all here did. They championed this bill and got it through our legislature with overwhelming support. I also want to recognize and thank the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, NARAL Pro Choice Massachusetts, the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization for Women, and the Massachusetts Women's Political Caucus for pushing so hard to get this done and for their continued advocacy for women's health and the right to choose.
Senate President Murray
It's amazing, a few short years when we did the first clinic, the first Buffer Zone Bill, there was great consternation, and there was great debate and there was great worry about whether we were taking people's rights away from them and instead this time when this bill came out, there was very little debate because everyone got it. They understand that you have to have freedom of movement along with freedom of speech but you can't pose your particular brand of freedom on somebody else. So you should all be commended on your efforts to ensure that the health and rights of women and healthcare providers remain a priority. And I also want to thank Senators Timilty, Chandler, and Fargo and Senators for their hard work on the bill. Patients have the right seek medical care. Health professionals have the right to assist their patients. And they both have the right to pursue such care without being harassed, humiliated, or threatened. It is simple common sense legislation to protect the rights and well-being of women and their health care providers by expanding the area around entrances and driveways to create a fixed, clearly defined, and enforceable 35 foot buffer zone. It provides the protection the patients and healthcare staff deserve. And the signing of this bill today represents our commitment. The Governor, the House, and the Senate, to women's reproductive health.
House Speaker DiMasi
It's an important piece of legislation because everyone knows that the current law was un-enforceable, un-workable, and it infringed upon, as everybody said, the rights of people to get medical assistance and to have the right of choice here in Massachusetts. To me, this in no way infringes upon free speech. And I know the courts have upheld laws that are similar to this, so I'm very confident that this will be upheld, in any court of law in Massachusetts or in the Federal Courts. I want to thank all of my members who were very instrumental that are here today, who led the charge on this particular piece of legislation and especially the sponsors, Marty Walsh and Representative Escortino but I also want to thank my chairman of the committee that championed this bill in the House, when we debated it, Mike Costello who is right behind me. So he deserves a great deal of credit. Everybody was aware, including all of the people in public safety that had to enforce this law, that this so- called bubble, was the most, and the way the law had been written, is the most un-enforceable way of trying to protect these people. And literally everyone in law enforcement came back to us and told us that they had no opportunity what-so-every to prove their case, if anybody violated this. And it was so nebulous and so confusing and so vague, that it needed to be changed and I think now we have a law that's precise in its definition of what you can and cannot do under these circumstances and I think it will lead to a safer place women to make any choice to get medical attention.