By Jan Erickson, Director of NOW Foundation Programs
In 1994 in Brookline, Massachusetts, a gunman opened fire at two abortion clinics, killing two receptionists and wounding at least five other people. In March of 1993, Dr. David Gunn was murdered outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida. In 1991, a women's health clinic receptionist was shot and paralyzed from the waist down.
According to the Feminist Majority Foundation, since 1991, at least ten people - 5 doctors, 2 receptionists, an escort and a security guard -- have been murdered and 17 people wounded, including 8 doctors. On May 31, 2009, Dr. George Tiller was murdered at his church in Wichita, Kansas.
Anyone who claims that anti-abortion zealots are only engaging in "speech" are either sadly misinformed or deliberately misstating the facts.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments in McCullen v. Coakley
(Docket No. 12-1168) challenging a 2007 Massachusetts law that makes it a crime for speakers to enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk within 35 feet of an entrance, exit, or driveway of a reproductive health care facility.
The law applies only at abortion clinics and exempts patients, clinic employees or agents acting within the scope of their employment and was adopted as a result of decades of harassment, obstruction and violent acts including two murders at clinics by abortion opponents in Massachusetts.
Thirty Years of Violence
- Briefs submitted by the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts (PPLM), Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Abortion Federation and 31 other organizations, including NOW Foundation, detail thirty years of harassment, intimidation and obstruction directed at patients, clinic staff and volunteers at Boston, Worcester and Springfield facilities.
Blockades and invasions of facilities were conducted by Operation Rescue, an extremist group determined to stop abortions, despite a permanent injunction and the arrests of hundreds of protesters. In 1991, John Salvi shot and killed a Brookline PPLM employee, 25 year old Shannon Lowney, an employee of another abortion provider, and injured five other persons.
Terrorism towards a Goal
- There can be no other way to describe in a single word what antiabortion protesters have engaged in for four decades and that is terrorism
. Their goals were - and remain to this day - to terrorize health care providers, women who seek reproductive health care services and their allies to achieve their ideological and political goals.
To that end, tens of millions of dollars have been raised from Catholic men's organizations, right wing billionaires and extremist antiabortion organizations. McCullen v. Coakley
is just one in a long and continuing line of legal challenges that abortion rights opponents hope that one day will lead a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court to undo Roe v. Wade
Close observers of the Supreme Court believe that this case, among many important cases before the Court this term, speculate that the precedent established in Hill v. Colorado ((98-1856) 530 U.S. U.S. 703) may well be overturned.
If that happens, other states' buffer zone laws and, in fact, the 1994 landmark Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) federal law are at risk.
Buffer Zones Enhance Safety
- A 2013 survey conducted by the National Abortion Federation of their U.S. membership found that 51 percent of the facilities with buffer zones reported a decrease in criminal activity near the facility after the buffer zone was in place, and 75 percent of the responding facilities with buffer zones said that the zones improved patient and staff access.
At the same time, 90 percent of the facilities report that they are concerned about the safety of their patients and employees in the areas approaching the facility and over 80 percent have called law enforcement because of safety, access or criminal activity concerns.
Prior to the FACE Act nearly 10,000 incidents had been reported since 1977, including five murders, 585 acts of vandalism, 547 invasions, 124 arsons. Since 1994, the number of incidents has declined dramatically, especially murders, attempted murders and death threats, but vandalism, trespassing, burglaries, stalking, hate mail and harassing calls and picketing remain problematic.
The National Abortion Federation which conducts the survey of incidents in the U.S. and Canada notes that the actual incident numbers are likely much higher.
FACE Also Promotes Clinic Safety
- As most advocates for women's reproductive rights know, FACE has been very effective in reducing harassment, violent confrontation, vandalism, arson, murder and other criminal activities aimed at clinics, health care providers, patients and volunteers. The federal law makes it illegal to intentionally commit a range of violent, obstructive and threatening activities toward reproductive health care providers and their patients.
FACE also punishes anyone who intentionally damages or destroys a facility that provides reproductive health care services.
Only the federal government can file criminal charges under FACE, but civil causes of action can be brought by federal and state governments and/or any person or facility that has been the victim of a prohibited action under FACE.
FACE does not specify buffer zones rather those have been adopted by various states and some local governments.
NOW Foundation president O'Neill says, "We know what the antiabortion protesters in McCullen want - they want to be able to grab patients, get in their faces, scream at them that they are immoral, and that having an abortion is a mortal sin and a risk to their health, among other falsehoods.
These individuals are maniacal in their determination to stop abortion and will not respect the privacy and safety of patients, clinic personnel and volunteers.
Abortion clinics are not the only places with buffer zones. A protective 100-foot buffer zone surrounds the Supreme Court building.
GC said: RIGHT NOW EVERY NON PROFIT, UNION, ANIMAL RIGHTS, ENVIROMENTAL, OCCUPY GROUP AND ORGANIZATION should challenge every buffer zone forced on them by the police at picketing events and the very first challenge should be to the Supreme Court buffer zone.
MUCH MORE AT THE LINK - PLEASE GO AND READ IT
Further Information at:
American Bar Association website links to case documents