Mia Kim Sullivan: Supreme Court itself has a buffer zone

Last modified: Monday, June 30, 2014
To the editor:

When the Supreme Court heard arguments challenging Massachusetts’ 35-foot buffer zone, which for seven years had shielded the entrances to local reproductive health clinics, the court itself was insulated by a 252-foot-wide zone where demonstrations before the courthouse steps continue to be banned. Last summer, the court’s lawyers vigorously defended this ban, arguing it was needed to allow “unimpeded ingress and egress of visitors to the court,” and also to protect the justices from external influences.

Until the recent court ruling, patients, workers and doctors in Massachusetts could be free from intimidation, harassment and unwanted attempts to influence them for the last few seconds before they reached the clinic door — the time it took to cross the 35-foot protected zone.

Twenty years ago, when seven clinic workers were shot in Brookline, one could not approach a clinic entrance without pushing past protesters who touched you, screamed or shoved video cameras in your face.

In 1994, the Times reported that the Brookline clinics “had been the target of almost constant, vociferous anti-abortion protesters.” These confrontations did not end once a buffer zone was introduced. Over a decade later, when the current, 35-foot zone was enacted in 2007, the legislative record shows that protesters would regularly block clinic entrances, surround patients and clinic workers, threaten and spit on them, and photograph them and their license plates. Today, the ongoing violence at clinics and anti-abortion protests does not allow us to forget how frightening and violent the war on women has been even here, in our own community.

Mia Kim Sullivan