Today the Supreme Court unanimously struck down a Massachusetts state law that created a “buffer zone” designed to separate protestors from patients seeking access to abortions at reproductive health clinics such as Planned Parenthood. The state enacted the law in 2007 in the wake of violence at other family planning clinics. In the Court’s narrowly-worded decision, Chief Justice Roberts writing for the majority suggested that other means of protecting clinic access would not violate the First Amendment. Indeed, in 2000 the Supreme Court upheld a Colorado state law that established 100-foot buffer zones outside all health care facilities, not just abortion clinics, and that included with the buffer zones a smaller area in which a person seeking access to the clinic could not be approached for “protest, education or counseling” without their consent. Massachusetts lawmakers enacted stricter protections after deciding that laws like Colorado’s were not effective enough.
Transgender Law Center stands in solidarity with our friends in the reproductive health and women’s movements in expressing disappointment with this ruling. Protections such as those established by the Massachusetts law have proven to be essential for patients to be able to access the care they need without fear of being harassed or intimidated – something that happens regularly in front of health care centers that offer abortion. Women’s health clinics are often a first point of contact for transgender and gender nonconforming people to access competent health care – reproductive and otherwise – free from discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression. Further, transgender and gender nonconforming people already face extraordinarily high rates of discrimination in insurance and health care settings as well as violence and harassment on the street. Everyone should be able to access the care they need without fearing for their safety.
We invite you to tweet along with reproductive justice groups using #protectthezone to show your support for buffer zones.