Today the US Supreme Court has agreed to rule on the 2007 Massachusetts Buffer Zone Law that prevents anti-choice protestors from standing within 35 feet of the entrance or exit of an abortion clinic.
Women seeking health services and the people who provide those services should be able to do so without fear of violence, harassment, or intimidation. The Massachusetts Buffer Zone law has transformed women’s experiences in accessing basic health care in Massachusetts, making the once harrowing and often physically threatening experience of entering an abortion clinic safer.
Allowing the kind of harassment that anti-abortion protestors use at health clinics is what drives women to back alley abortion providers or anti-choice funded crisis pregnancy centers that provide medical misinformation and shame women. The media reported that many women who went to Kermit Gosnell for an abortion in unsafe conditions did so because they were intimidated by protestors at other well-known clinics. Women have a constitutional right to access this basic health care, and should be able to so without the threat of physical violence or intimidation.
The Massachusetts’ Buffer Zone Law balances the need to protect women accessing care with the first amendment rights of protestors who, even after the passage of this law, are still able to protest abortion clinics and regularly do. That is why the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals rightfully determined that protestors have no less speech 35 feet away from the entrance than they do at the entrance. What changes is their ability to physically block the entrance entirely—a practice regularly used at clinics in Massachusetts prior to the passage of this law.
In 2007 the Commonwealth took a stand and said it will not tolerate women being harassed when they access basic health services like annual cancer screenings and birth control consultations. Anti-abortion advocates will not stop harassing women and providers, but it is imperative that the buffer zone be maintained to protect the safety of those seeking and providing care at clinics across the state.
NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts worked tirelessly to pass the Buffer Zone Law and looks forward to supporting the Attorney General as she defends this important law protecting women’s access to basic health care.