The Supreme Court's recent decision to remove safe passage to abortion clinics in Massachusetts

McCullen v. CoakleyThe Supreme Court’s recent ruling on McCullen v. Coakley is not only wrong, it has potentially created a danger for women seeking out services for reproductive rights. The case is not only a horrid decision with potential danger, but it also is laced in hypocrisy that I can’t even begin to properly assess.

The SCOTUS decided in a unanimous decision to eliminate the state law of Massachusetts that requires a thirty-five foot buffer zone for protesters at abortion clinics in the state. The high court did not repeal abortion rights, but they set a precedent by saying protesters at abortion clinics and similar providers have no barriers in how close they can get to the clinics.

Conservatives will of course make lite of this. I’ve already heard and read comments about how it allows protesters to exercise “free speech” (by yelling in the face of women who are likely making one of the toughest decisions of their life.) It disgusts me because the history of right-wing “protests” getting violent is clear.

It would not be an issue for pro-choice activists if anti-abortion protesters did not have a history of violence and nasty tactics. Does no one remember the clinic bombings and doctor assassinations? The fact is, the entire reason why Massachusetts put the thirty-five foot buffer law up in the first place is because of this violent history. It’s not like the state put up the barriers arbitrarily. The so-called “pro-life” crowd make constant threats against these clinics and their workers, as well as women seeking services there.

Bombings and death threats are the least of the problem. So-called pro-lifers also engage in a variety of nasty protest tactics, including rampant intimidation, propaganda and misinformation being shouted at by terrified woman and clinic staff. When the decision was handed down, it was claimed that the protesters just wanted to “kindly give out information.” Say what? I’ve seen Planned Parenthood protests before, and let me say that those goons are anything but kind. There is a history of violent acts against these clinics, across the country.

Basically, the SCOTUS just repealed the right for these clinics to have space to allow for safety of staff and clinic visitors. Keep in mind, thirty-five feet is not that long of a distance. In fact, the Supreme Court has a protest buffer zone on its grounds that are much larger than the buffer zones in Massachusetts. This graphic alone shows the disparaging buffer zones.


McCullen v. Coakley, buffer zone

The Supreme Court forces protesters back from its grounds much more than the clinic zones in Massachusetts. In fact I find the SCOTUS buffer zone worse. The Court is a body that can shape the laws of the country, a very important function. Having the right to have protesters be seen and heard by the court is much more important than protesters against women’s health rights.

How can it be that clinics in Massachusetts can’t have a measly thirty-five feet for the safety of its staff and patients, yet the Supreme Court can have a buffer zone several times that size? With the history of violence against clinics, and successful attacks, it should not be a huge debate as to whether safety zones be established for these clinics that are exercising legal rights to function and carry out services. The potential for this decision to go wrong is not as small as many would like to believe.

Of course the court’s decision in McCullen v. Coakley is not a single handed decision that will spell the end of abortion rights. Yet, it can possibly make the already hostile environment even more volatile. We should be very careful now, going forward. I will finish by saying; I won’t be surprised if Massachusetts has issues with clinic safety from now on.



  1. Very informative-and educational read for me. Leave those poor women alone and give them safe passage by all means necessary. The procedure in the early term is very safe and completely legal so why get in their faces?

  2. Yes, a good job explaining the issue – except now I am pissed off. No one should be forced to endure such harrassment and this does raise a red flag for me too. Leave those poor women alone. Most likely
    they have thought long and hard about why they would visit a clinic that performs this very safe and completely legal procedure.

  3. Thank you for this very interesting article. The SCOTUS ruling makes no sense to me, especially given the much larger buffer zone around the U.S. Supreme Court. This seems like a double standard if there ever was one!

  4. I heard about this but haven’t read anything about. It should have been a red flag to the justices that someone was trying very hard to eliminate that 35 ft barrier…and why? Why would it matter unless anti-choice groups wanted to harass patients and staff?

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