Waiting for McCullen v Coakley ~ Co-Authored by Oubli

We write about the antis all of the time on our blog. We photograph them, take videos of them and recite things they say to clients. The post this week by fml got a lot of comments and views, which is always very appreciated. We love active discussions with our readers.

The videos in the article of Reboot captured the atmosphere of the sidewalk perfectly. It is chaos. It is full of people shoving and shouting to harass and shame clients going for a legal medical procedure. I have said many times, that if you were going to a dentist’s office and protesters showed up to demonstrate they were against fillings because they thought they were a communication device to the devil, those protesters would not be tolerated by the community. But because the medical procedure being accessed at EMW is abortion, it is tolerated by society as being the antis’ right to free speech. Just another political demonstration of their views.

It is not a harmless demonstration. It is not a way to help anyone. The Report of the  APA Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion* “found that the greater the number of antiabortion picketers and the more aggressive the picketing that women encountered when entering an abortion clinic (as coded by observers), and the more the women reported feeling upset by the demonstrators, the more depressed affect they reported right after their abortion.” In other words, the antis outside the clinic cause more harm to the patient than the actual procedure. States and individual cities have recognized the harm and potential for violence by enacting buffer and/or bubble zone laws to separate the antis from close proximity to patients, escorts, staff and the clinics themselves.

Frequently, we are asked in comments about why we don’t have a buffer zone. We would love one, but there has never been a political climate in Louisville to be able to get the votes for implementing a buffer zone here. There are several reasons why this is our reality. We have studied the risks and benefits of launching a campaign to give the citizens of Louisville and residents of Kentucky a safety zone around the abortion clinics in the state, but for now we are waiting for the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of McCullen v Coakley. This will be decided during their current session. This case could overturn all existing buffer laws; a frightening prospect.

Oubli is a valued reader, a frequent commenter and has authored articles on our blog. Oubli sent this information and the additional resource information below, to emphasize  the importance of this case to all of the existing and proposed buffer zones in the United States.

We need to keep an eye on McCullen v. Coakley because it will determine the constitutionality of clinic buffer zones.

This clinic is the flash point for the case.**

Planned Parenthood's clinic in Boston, MA. The yellow line on the sidewalk and street marks the 35-feet buffer zone.

Planned Parenthood’s clinic in Boston, MA. The yellow line on the sidewalk and street marks the 35-feet buffer zone.

Planned Parenthood's Springfield, MA clinic has white arcs painted on the street to represent the buffer zone.

Planned Parenthood’s Springfield, MA clinic has white arcs painted on the street to represent the buffer zone.

I think that buffer zones do not violate free speech. My analogy would be the equally distasteful but protected freedom of speech right to protest military funerals. Yes, they can protest but as long as their protest was far enough away from the grievers as to not cause distress.

I would really like to pause for a minute and ask you to scroll back up to the photos with their lovely white and yellow lines.

We desperately need this type of space at our clinic. Go back and watch the videos from Wednesday’s post, Saturday on the Sidewalk. On the first video, those white tennis shoes you see were worn by me. In the second video you can see how much shoving, pushing and up close and personal Reboot was to the escorts and the client. Personally, I would prefer to not be as up close and personal with someone screaming in my face. Any escort who has been on the sidewalk in Louisville one time would vote instantly for any buffer zone we could get. The current situation has a high potential for violence and does nothing except cause harm to the clients and their companions.

In the meantime, we wait for the decision in this case that could turn back the clock 20 years or pave the way to a safer experience for all abortion clinics around the country.

Borrowing a slogan from the Kentucky Road Rally for Reproductive Rights: “Kentucky families deserve better!”


*American Psychological Association (APA) study. pg 84

Additional reading:

**Mike Blog: Law in Plain English McCullen v. Coakley (photographs source)

Policy Mic: McCullen v Coakley is Heading to the Supreme Court Again

Alliance Alert, Law Review: Balancing Public Safety and Freedom of Speech Outside Reproductive Healthcare Facilities-McCullen v Coakley

Cooperative Research: Profile: Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act

National Abortion Federation: Legal Remedies to Address Clinic Violence and Harassment. A Handbook for NAF Members.(Pdf)


We are standing up for reproductive rights on November 2. Are you coming with us? Can you contribute $5 or more to help make it happen?

FB page: https://www.facebook.com/KyRoadRally

Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/158610191007342/

Website: http://kyroadrally.org/

10 thoughts on “Waiting for McCullen v Coakley ~ Co-Authored by Oubli

    • James,

      You are probably right. What we hear most on the sidewalk is that clients are upset by the things the antis say because, “You know what you are doing is wrong. That’s why you are upset.” The more upset the clients are, the more the antis believe they are getting their message across.


  1. I wish the FACE Act had covered this issue. Nobody is infringing on their right to speak just their right to harass. If women want to be “counseled” they are free to cross the line to talk to the antis. Fingers crossed the court will get this one right.

    • KYBorn,

      My wish meets yours with wanting the FACE Act to have covered more. We never stop a client from talking to the antis if they want. Our fingers and toes are crossed too.


  2. I believe a good first step is to establish the boundary of a “Voluntary ” Buffer zone, the line which we would ask the protesters to honor as a respectful boundary. This would define the object of our wish list. It would no longer be about creating a buffer zone, it would be about honoring the established boundary. The demonstrators would have to make a cognitive decision to cross the voluntary buffer or to honor it. That dynamic of forcing that decision has power. There are no qualms for crossing a line that doesn’t exist or isn’t visible.

    • unknowme,

      If I understand your idea correctly, that would work well for reasonable people. However, the antis are not reasonable. When we have been told escorts “spoiled it for us” by an anti because we started showing up on weekdays a few years ago; when repeated requests to stop shoving and to give the client space are ignored; when antis deny they are even protesters every day; it is unlikely they will voluntarily step away from an imaginary line with no legal consequences. The only boundary we can enforce right now is the property line of the clinic. They “voluntarily” honor that line because to cross it would be trespassing and against the law.


  3. I have been told by several clients and companions that they where more afraid and angered by the protesters then the whole procedure itself.

    No matter how much one can read up on and know the things they are likely to shout and shame you with it is a scary experience like no other when you have a six foot tall 200 hundred lb plus man raging in your face. Most of the antis are very good at guilt, shaming, lying and manipulative behavior. But some of them the anger, fury and utter disdain directed at clients, compaions and escorts alike is so thick it is hard to even breathe.

    And we as escorts have seen the very best to the very worst in
    human behavior on a regular basis and it is still shocking. Can you just imagine the sheer terror that people that have never encountered such bias before feel?

    • KYCat,

      You are right, sometimes it is hard to breath with an atmosphere so thick. I am constantly shocked with the anger and hate coming in waves from some of the antis. There have been so many times we have talked to clients, held their hands and tried to reassure them the things they were saying weren’t personally directed to them. When you see someone rushing towards you on the sidewalk, it is hard not to take it personally.


      • It’s very hard to walk through that gauntlet and not have all the images of every news reports and article you’ve ever seen on clinic bombings and other violent savagery the “pro-life” faction has wrought upon innocent people running through your mind. You KNOW they would gleefully ruin your life if they believed their God told them to do it.

        And you wonder if that’s Mary’s elbow or a gun she’s nudging into your side while she’s talking. Or while Reboot is charging up to people, you struggle not to flinch and hope his fists don’t start wildly swinging at you.

        The antis have more than proven that they are violent and need to be kept at a safe distance like wild animals in a zoo.

      • Longtail,

        You know you are right, and I can safely say those thoughts have passed through my mind, but I really try not to dwell on the potential for violence. I can’t and also create a feeling of space for the clients. The antis are violent and mean to cause harm either emotionally or physically to the clients and escorts. We need a safe distance.

        Thanks as always,

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