The Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision that the Massachusetts 35 foot buffer zone outside an abortion clinic was an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of speech (but remained silent on the constitutional right of a person to seek out legal health care without being accosted by strangers). What was completely dismissed was the hundreds of stories of those who have been in the past harassed by so-called “sidewalk counselors” or are currently trying to help patients navigate the sidewalks in cities that don’t have the same protection.
Time Magazine quotes clinic escort Michelle Kinsey Bruns discussing what patients are most likely to ask when they see protesters at the clinic: “Are they allowed to do this? Are they going to hurt me? Will they be here when I’m done?” The Guardian has clinic escort Katie Klabusich offering similar tales: “These are women in obvious physical distress, and I’ve seen seven or eight picketers surround a medical van so a sick woman couldn’t get to a doctor. This is what buffer zones help to stop.”
Abortion providers themselves have an even more deadly reason to be worried. “I think the bubble zone should be the distance a rifle bullet can travel. Or even better, New Jersey. Make the Boulder buffer zone end somewhere in New Jersey,” said Colorado provider Dr. Warren Hern. “I can’t use the front door of my office and I can’t drive out the front driveway with the protesters there. Because all of the doctors who have been assassinated have been assassinated by so-called protesters. All the other people have been killed in Boston and Alabama and so on have been killed by so-called peaceful protesters who ‘went over the edge.’”
The Massachusetts zone went down, but are other zones safe? California city specific buffers are already being cited as vulnerable, making it possible that all could be up for at least a challenge. Chicago activists say they are coming for their bubble zone, as well. The worst part? That it could lead back to the old days of clinic violence, as Lizz Winstead remembers. “The scariest place to be in the chain was in the middle because if the middle broke, they could get access easier. I tried to be on the end so I could see better and somehow it felt safer. That is until I had a guy walk past me with a sharpened key, dragging it across my thighs. I flinched and broke the chain. He looked into my eyes and said, ‘Just headed to my car’ as he made a beeline for the clinic door.”
There’s only one clinic right now in northern Alabama, and despite the fact that it has the newly required physician admitting privileges, it is losing its license today. Unable to revamp its building to meet the new regulations that weren’t challenged in court along with the admitting privileges requirement, the clinic has purchased a new building to move into a few blocks away. But anti-abortion activists are trying to get their new license blocked in the state to keep it shut down for good. Meanwhile, pregnant patients wanting services need to travel an extra 250 miles — one way.
Toledo and Ohio abortion rights supporters continue to argue against the state’s plan to close the only Toledo clinic, which would send many to Michigan to obtain abortions. Pennsylvania abortion opponents appear to be checking in on abortion providers’ admitting privileges status, making it look as if a new restriction may be getting prepped for the legislature. Ohio legislature should expect to see at least five new anti-abortion bills next year, according to Ohio Right to Life. Expect at least one to be about funneling even more taxpayer dollars to CPCs. But, if it’s anything like the situation in Michigan, the money won’t actually go anywhere but lining abortion opponent’s pockets.
It’s still a few weeks until a decision in the Wisconsin admitting privileges suit, but the doctors suing have now been officially turn down by local hospitals. In Albuquerque, anti-abortion protesters are claiming the pro-life governor isn’t doing enough to end abortion in the state. Her staff is responding with expletives, mainly because their message includes taking bloody fetus posters into his neighborhood and by his children.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is running for President, even if he hasn’t said it publicly. To try to look moderate he is claiming the GOP is a “big tent” party on abortion rights, by which he must mean some oppose abortion from any point in the pregnancy for any reason, where as others oppose even trying to prevent pregnancy in the first place.
Finally, pro-abortion rights activists strike back by protesting and offering counseling on the sidewalks outside a crisis pregnancy center. And some very good news for Peace Corp members, who could soon be able to use their insurance to obtain abortions if they are impregnated as a result of sexual assault, just like any other person who is using insurance partially funded by the government.
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