This sense of safety hasn’t always been the norm for employees and patients of reproductive health care providers in Massachusetts. Prior to the buffer zone law, some protestors would dress up like Boston Police Department officers to deceive patients into providing their contact information. Some protestors would intentionally block the entrance to the door or stand in front of cars entering the garage. There were cases of protestors photographing or throwing literature inside of patients’ or employees’ cars. Most tragically of all, two employees were murdered at neighboring health centers in Brookline in 1994.
Part of my responsibilities as Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts’ Counseling and Referral Supervisor included overseeing the 60 volunteers who staffed our hotline, some of whom had been volunteering for Planned Parenthood since before I was born. I was often reminded by our volunteers of how lucky I was to have only known the health center after the buffer zone law was passed. When I trained new volunteers, many asked if I felt safe at the health center, and I would explain how the buffer zone worked. They were relieved to know that they would have a safe, clear path to the door every day.
Today, the Supreme Court struck down the Massachusetts buffer zone law that made me, my coworkers, and the patients feel safe and protected. It is incredibly disheartening to learn that my former coworkers and their patients won’t be protected by the same 35-feet that kept me safe. I trust that the staff at Planned Parenthood will continue to do whatever they can to help protect their patients and provide excellent, non-judgmental care, and encourage you to follow them online (find the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund on Facebook andTwitter) for ways to action to replace the buffer zone law.