Nel's New Day

August 1, 2014

Massachusetts Law Tries to Protect Women Seeking Health Care

Filed under: Reproductive rights — trp2011 @ 7:44 PM
Tags: ,

One of the seriously anti-woman rulings from the Supreme Court justices this year was to strike down the Massachusetts 35-feet buffer zone around women’s clinics to protect patients, healthcare professionals, and staff from threats and violence of anti-choice protesters. SCOTUS gave “counselors” the right to harass people on the “sidewalk” although justices have taken action to protect themselves from any protests.

Five weeks after SCOTUS issued its decision in McCullen v. Coakley, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has signed a law to protect access to women’s clinics in the state. The Act to Promote Public Safety and Protect Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities permits law enforcement officials to order the “immediate dispersal of a gathering that substantially impedes access to or departure from an entrance or a driveway to a reproductive health care facility.” The order would “remain in place for 8 hours or until the close of business of the reproductive health facility, whichever is earlier” and make noncompliance punishable with a fine or jail time. Patterned after the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), the law also prohibits the use of force, threats, intimidation, or other acts meant to impede access to a clinic. The law goes into effect immediately.

Massachusetts enacted a buffer zone law in 2000 after repeated incidents of clinic violence and intimidation, including the murders in 1994 of two clinic receptionists. Anti-abortion extremist John Salvi killed Shannon Lowney, 25, and Lee Ann Nichols, 38, at two separate clinics in Brookline. He wounded five other people in those attacks. Another law created the 35-foot safety buffer zone in 2007 after anti-abortion demonstrators continued to crowd clinic entrances, block cars from entering driveways, and intimidate patients, doctors, and healthcare workers. Local law enforcement made clear that having a better-defined buffer zone would promote public safety. The new law allows police to move protesters 25 feet away, but one if at least two of them try to block an entrance.

A former Director of Security wrote the following after the Supreme Court decision in McCullen v. Coakley:

I was Director of Security the day Dr. George Tiller was shot.

So for those of you who write “not a student of abortion clinic violence lol” listen up, because I am. And I’m going to tell you how it is.

For those of you who are familiar with the FACE Act (Freedom of Access to Clinics Act), you will know that the reason it was passed was because of the violent protests in front of clinics. In many cases, the protestors would chain themselves to the door and keep women from entering, sometimes by force, by grabbing and touching women and threatening bodily harm. Carrying signs and singing are not covered by the FACE act (free speech), but threats are. You can’t threaten women trying to access a reproductive health facility.

So what’s a threat?

Well, “you’re going to Hell” is not a threat. However, one of my “favorite” tactics was for the protestors to bring a bully breed dog with a spike collar and have it sit with him all day.

Is that a threat or intimidation?

How about if the dog is growling at people? How about if that dog is now near the entrance?

Is recording who enters and exits and writing down license plate numbers a threat? How about if they are standing next to you and recording your facial expressions as they tell you to stop being such a slut?

How about following you home? Is that threatening?

How about picketing a physician’s house and passing out fliers to your neighbors “just so they know what kind of person lives next door?”

What about open carry states? Now you can open carry right up to the clinic door, maybe even into the clinic.

Oh, and they did get in the clinic sometimes. They might make an appointment for themselves, drop off literature in the waiting room, and then leave. Sometimes they would come in for abortions themselves, and then go right back out and protest the next day.

We had one guy who loved to jump out of the bushes at staff and scream about Hell at them while they were trying to go to work. We had staff members who had their tires slashed repeatedly, nails driven into their tires, and acid attacks on the property and bomb threats.

One time a protestor threw himself in front of a car and said that a patient tried to run him over, and the patient was detained by police and almost arrested. We had protestors try and touch people.

Another fun thing I dealt with was our package carrier writing “BABY KILLERS” on our packages, and some of them mysteriously being opened and “lost.”

Protesters dressed up like clinic escorts so that patients would get confused as to who worked for the clinic and would accidentally hook up with a protestor to hear all about why she is going to Hell and all kinds of misinformation about the abortion procedure.

Abortion doctors have a joke that Kevlar vests are pointless because they all shoot for the head now anyway. And now they can walk right up to a doctor walking into work. And anti-choicers know exactly when the docs get there, what they look like, and where they live.

I also always laugh when someone says the violence and intimidation stats are low. Those statistics are underreported. Wikipedia’s summary of how many violent events have happened? Way too low. There is no formal documentation project related to threats, violence, and violations of FACE. There are a few private projects but participation is not required.

Just in my two years as DoS I saw the statistics go up and become completely insane after Obama was elected. Fun fact: If there’s a “real Christian” in the White House, violence tapers off because of the Federal anti-abortion access legislation that gets passed. They feel validated and in control and don’t harass individual women as much.

I realized that nothing is going to stop the coming violence, and for the rest of my life when the inevitable happened on my watch I would never be able to live with it because I would feel responsible for not being able to protect staff and patients. Anti-choicers have been very successful, because everyone else minimizes how often this happens and how terrible it is. Everyone thinks the nail bombs are few and far between.

Because everyone has been so apathetic and believes that abortion happens to sluts and other people, that the only moral abortion is my abortion, that there is no good medical reason for it, that the only women who have abortions are selfish upper class women who don’t want to mother or poor welfare queens who have eight kids anyhow and use it as birth control–women are going to die, and people are going to get shot, stabbed, and blown up.

The attorney for little old lady, who fronted the Supreme Court argument about “counseling,” is already saying that they will sue again because allowing women to safely have health care has a “chilling effect on free speech.”

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