In Support of “An Act to Promote Public Safety and Protect Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities” - SD2106
Presented by Kara DelTufo, President
Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts
before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary
July 16, 2014
The Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts (WBA) is a professional association of women attorneys and judges founded in 1978, with over 1,500 members across the Commonwealth with the mission of achieving the full and equal participation of women in every aspect of a just society. The WBA has a long-standing commitment to protecting women’s rights and freedom of choice. We understand the importance of protecting patients and employees entering reproductive health facilities. That is why we supported the 2007 buffer zone statute and signed on to the National Abortion Federation’s amicus brief that was submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2013 in support of that law. The WBA has supported strong buffer zone laws for over 15 years, and we will continue to vigorously advocate for the safe, unfettered access to reproductive clinics around the state. We are here to support SD2106.
The WBA was deeply disappointed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in McCullen v. Coakley. To paraphrase another Supreme Court decision (Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey), women's control over their reproductive rights has facilitated their ability to participate equally in the economic and social life of the nation. The McCullen decision threatens women's equality. It reduces women’s control over their medical decisions by suggesting that no matter what a woman’s personal and private decisional process, she cannot access a clinic for treatment without first hearing a stranger’s opinion on her private medical decision. We ask the Committee to recall the last medical procedure that they underwent, and now imagine having to undergo a discussion with a stranger about that decision in order to access treatment. No citizen in Massachusetts should have to undergo such an intrusion of their right to privacy in healthcare decisions. While it is hard to imagine this decision being rendered for any other healthcare procedure but a women’s reproductive healthcare decision, it is worth noting that many women, including our members, have used facilities such as Planned Parenthood for routine healthcare such as OB/GYN visits and fulfillment of birth control prescriptions. With the passage of the Supreme Court’s other recent decision (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby) the need to easily and safely access lower cost providers of contraceptives like Planned Parenthood is even greater. Women should not be forced to walk a gauntlet of criticism simply to pick up their medicine.
It is not lost on the WBA that the Supreme Court’s decision was rendered in Washington D.C. – a place that does not have the same particular history of clinic violence that Massachusetts does. We here in Massachusetts know that the buffer zone worked: it provided a critical means to protect patients and employees of reproductive healthcare facilities from continued violence and to ensure a woman’s safe access to reproductive healthcare services.
There is a clear and compelling need for this new, carefully crafted legislation to protect patients’ rights and their safety in light of McCullen. We do not want to return to incidences of protesters dressing up as Boston Police officers and asking for patients’ names and contact information and patients and employees being touched and screamed at by protesters, having their access blocked to the front door and garage, and being photographed, filmed and having unsolicited literature thrown at them in their cars.
We commend Senator Chandler, Attorney General Coakley and others for crafting this bill according to the U.S. Supreme Court’s direction in McCullen to balance public safety and access with free speech concerns. We urge the Committee to give a favorable report tothis bill and support its swift passage into law.
Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts
27 School Street, Suite 500, Boston, MA 02108
Ph: 617.973.6666, Fax: 617.973.6663
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