Our doctors have seen firsthand what can happen without these zones
New York, NY—On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in the case of McCullen v. Coakley. The petitioners in this case are challenging the constitutionality of a Massachusetts law that makes it a crime for clinic protesters to remain on a public way within 35 feet of an entrance to a reproductive health care facility.
Physicians for Reproductive Health (Physicians) representatives expressed concern about the legal battle to dismantle Massachusetts reproductive health clinic buffer zones.
Physicians board chair Dr. Nancy Stanwood:
“Although protesters and their supporters claim that this case is a First Amendment issue, it’s not. Buffer zones ensure that women and their health care providers can enter clinics safely, without fear of threats, intimidation, or violence. As physicians who provide comprehensive reproductive health care, my colleagues and I have witnessed firsthand what happens outside clinics when such protection is absent. Here are two of many stories that highlight the necessity of buffer zones.”
Physicians Leadership Training Academy Fellow Dr. Julie Johnston, who practices outside of Boston, Mass.:
“Abortion has been needlessly separated from other basic health care services and, therefore, clinics dedicated to providing reproductive health care are easily targeted by anti-abortion protesters. As a family doctor, I witnessed the scare tactics used by protesters before the current buffer zone law was enacted. Protesters dressed as the Grim Reaper shook scythes at patients. Others tried to physically impede access to clinic entrances. Our state’s buffer zone law ensures that Massachusetts women can receive legal and safe medical care in these clinics without having to make their way through hostile crowds.”
Former Leadership Training Academy Fellow Dr. Jen Russo, who worked in Pittsburgh, Penn., and has coauthored a study on clinic harassment and protesters:
“When I worked at a clinic in a city without a buffer zone, I walked a gauntlet of protesters who tried to verbally abuse and intimidate me and my patients. Not far from the clinic where I worked, a volunteer was asked by a protester, ‘How do you prefer to die? By knife or by bullet?’ I treated countless women who felt threatened and traumatized by the protesters’ loud and disruptive presence.”
“As state governments become increasingly hostile to abortion care through onerous restrictions that have no medical purpose, women who need abortions are singled out for punishment. Why wouldn’t protesters who harass and intimidate patients and clinic employees follow suit? It is especially at this time when anti-choice voices are so loud that we need to ensure protection from harassment, not roll back protections for women seeking abortions.”