Supreme Court strikes down abortion clinic buffer zone law

June 2014

June 26, 2014 – Today, in a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that established 35-foot buffer zones around entrances to state abortion clinics. The buffer was designed to protect both patients and providers from violence and harassment.

We are disappointed by the Court’s decision, and in particular to the lack of weight given to evidence showing the intimidation, harassment, and violence that abortion providers and patients face on a daily basis. According to the National Abortion Federation, since 1977 there have been thousands of incidences of criminal activity directed at abortion providers, including eight murders, 17 attempted murders, and 42 bombings. The Massachusetts law was passed in response to the murders of Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols, who were both working at clinics in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1994.

Women are already impeded by numerous barriers when seeking abortion care— unnecessary ultrasounds, mandatory counseling and waiting periods, parental notification laws, and restrictions on insurance coverage. We are concerned that this ruling will make it more difficult for women to safely access legal health services due to intimidation and stigma, as well as increase the dangers that providers face.

Last November, Ibis joined 31 organizations in signing on to an amicus brief in support of the buffer zones, affirming our belief “that buffer zones are critical to the continued safety of reproductive healthcare facilities, patients, and providers because they provide a safe area for providers to access their workplace and for patients to obtain reproductive healthcare services.” We urge advocates and state legislators to respond to the ruling with new laws that will protect access to clinics and public safety.

Ibis Reproductive Health firmly supports the right of all women to access to safe abortion, and supports providers working to make comprehensive reproductive health services available.