Next Monday is the 19th anniversary of the Boston and Brookline abortion clinic shootings. On December 30, 1994, John Salvi opened fire in two Boston area abortion clinics, killing 2 employees—one at each clinic—and wounding 5 others.
On this sad anniversary, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts remembers those who gave their lives to protect women’s access to basic health care. Women seeking health services and the people who provide those services should be able to do so without fear of violence, harassment, or intimidation. We continue to fight to protect women’s access to the full range of reproductive health care services.
On January 15th, the US Supreme Court will begin to hear McCullen v. Coakley, a challenge to the Massachusetts buffer zone law, which creates a 35-foot, content neutral buffer zone around the entrance to abortion clinics. The law protects women’s access to health care while still balancing the first amendment rights of protestors. NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts has joined a long list of respected Massachusetts based and national organizations in an amicus brief supporting the Massachusetts buffer zone law.
There is a history of violence around abortion clinics, both across the country and in Massachusetts—a history that we remember every December 30th. Before the buffer zone law was passed in Massachusetts, protestors regularly blocked access to clinics’ front doors, physically put hands on patients and employees, and photographed or videotaped into the cars of both patients and clinic staff entering and leaving. Because of this violence and intimidation, Massachusetts passed its buffer zone law in 2007.
While the buffer zone law has been an effective tool in ensuring that women can access basic health care while still allowing protestors a voice, violence at clinics continues around the country in locations without buffer zone laws. Between 2007 and 2012, across the country there have been 8 reported arsons, 41 incidents of assault and battery, 37 bomb threats, 41 death threats, 81 suspicious packages, 50 reports of staff and patients being stalked, and 30 facility blockades that shut down clinic services.
Women should not have to undergo herculean efforts to access basic health care. The physical intimidation and harassment that women experience outside of clinics prevents women from seeking medical care from reputable practitioners. Since the passage of the buffer zone, clinics in Massachusetts have not seen a decrease in protestors, but have seen a dramatic decrease in violence and intimidation of women entering clinics. Protestors continue to be a consistent concern for abortion clinics, but the buffer zone prevents protestors from being physically close enough to commit violence against those accessing health care and encourages public safety officers to take the threats of violence seriously. If the US Supreme Court strikes down the Massachusetts buffer zone law, they would take away the Commonwealth’s most effective tool in ensuring women’s safe access to basic health care.
NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts is the state’s leading advocate for privacy, a woman’s right to choose, and access to the full range of reproductive health care. For more information, please visit www.prochoicemass.org.
Organizations that have signed on to the National Abortion Federation sponsored amicus brief:
· Abortion Care Network
· American Association of University Women
· Association of Reproductive Health Professionals
· Black Women’s Health Imperative
· Catholics for Choice
· Feminist Majority Foundation
· Women’s Zionist Org. of America
· Ibis Reproductive Health
· Law Students for Reproductive Justice
· League of Women Voters of Massachusetts
· Medical Students for Choice
· NARAL Pro-Choice America
· NARAL Pro-Choice New York
· National Abortion Federation
· National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum
· National Association of Social Workers and its Massachusetts Chapter
· National Council of Jewish Women
· National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association
· National Institute for Reproductive Health
· National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
· National Organization for Women Foundation
· National Partnership for Women and Families
· National Women’s Health Network
· National Women’s Law Center
· Nursing Students for Choice
· Physicians for Reproductive Health
· Provide, Inc.
· Reproductive Health Access Project
· Reproductive Health Technologies Project
· Unitarian Universalist Association
· Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts