Expanded Buffer Zones Needed in Massachusetts

Dianne Williamson’s column in Sunday’s Worcester Telegram & Gazette demonstrates the need for an expanded buffer zone around reproductive health care facilities in Massachusetts. Under the current law, there is an 18-foot buffer zone around reproductive heath care facilities, but protesters may be within the buffer zone as long as they remain at least six feet away from clinic workers and patients. A bill in the state House of Representatives would prevent anti-abortion opponents from coming within 35 feet of clinic entrances.

As Williamson observes outside a local clinic, the current buffer zone law does not protect patients from intimidation. She recounts watching protesters yell and harass patients – even causing one woman to cry as she leaves the parking lot and enters the clinic. One protester in particular appears outside the clinic in a Grim Reaper costume, and ironically refuses to divulge his real name because he doesn’t “want to be harassed.” Unfortunately, the patients who have to walk past this masked anti-abortion extremist are not as lucky.

We know from the experience in Massachusetts and other areas of the country that creating or expanding buffer zones around health care facilities can lead to a decrease in violence and harassment, thereby ensuring the safety of patients and staff.

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