Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law on Wednesday afternoon a bill designed to increase public safety and access around abortion provider facilities, following the Supreme Court’s buffer zone ruling last month.
The bill, known as An Act to Promote Public Safety and Protect Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities, was rushed through the legislature after the state’s buffer zone law was struck down in June. It was passed by both chambers of the legislature last week, and then underwent a final vote of approval Tuesday.
According to MassLive, the state house passed the bill with an “emergency preamble,” which means that it will take effect as soon as it is signed.
As Rewire has previously reported, the legislation makes it illegal to impede or restrict access to a clinic, including by blocking vehicles, and sets up civil and criminal sanctions for those who violate the law. It also gives law enforcement the power to disperse groups of two or more who are limiting access to a facility. After a dispersal order is given, the group has to stand at least 25 feet from the clinic’s entrance for eight hours.
In a statement earlier this month, Attorney General Martha Coakley said that “no woman should face intimidation or threats when trying to access reproductive health care services. The Supreme Court should not have the final word. We should have the final word in protecting this access.”
At the bill’s signing Wednesday, Gov. Patrick echoed that sentiment, saying that the legislation “affirms that we in this Commonwealth … will step up to protect a woman’s right to choose.”