One patient was so rattled she left the abortion clinic without attending her appointment. Another had to be helped from her car by an escort as aggressive protesters chanted in her face.
According to Marty Walz, president of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, these are the real-life consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision last month to strike down a state law preventing abortion protesters from getting within 35 feet of clinics.
“That’s the world the Supreme Court has brought us back to,” Walz said during a call with reporters on Wednesday.
While the high court ruling dealt with Massachusetts law specifically, it has had a much broader impact. Several other states and cities— including Burlington, Vermont, Portland, Maine and Madison, Wisconsin— have since eliminated similar buffer-zone laws or simply stopped enforcing them in the wake of the Supreme Court decision. And New Hampshire’s buffer zone law has also come under fire.
Legal analysts say there need to be alternatives to buffer-zone laws to protect women. And there's hope a new Massachusetts law will do just that — in the commonwealth and beyond state borders.
Massachusetts State Attorney General Martha Coakley says she hopes the new law, which tightens security outside abortion clinics and gives police more authority to remove aggressive protesters, will serve as a “roadmap” for other states and jurisdictions grappling with how to respond to last month's Supreme Court ruling.
Coakley is confident the new Massachusetts law will stand up to scrutiny. She said the state has made “every effort” to take cues from the Supreme Court ruling.
“From a legal point of view, I think we took to heart what they were telling us,” she said during a phone interview today with reporters.
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.