Buffer Zone Laws

I’m sure you already know the Supreme Court is debating whether or not buffer zone laws are legal for abortion clinics, or if they violate the First Amendment.  I’m a bit disheartened and already tired of reading about it ~ tired of worrying about it.

I am afraid we’re going to lose this one.

Not that it makes any difference, here in Louisville.  We don’t have a buffer zone , and absolutely no expectation of getting one.  So my level of frustration and anger about the way this is going may be inordinately high.

It’s frustrating that the media acts like the protesters are just a few elderly women, gently “counseling” the clients as they pass by.  Maybe that’s what it’s like in Massachusetts.    In Louisville, we don’t just have a couple of “harmless old ladies.”  In Louisville, even our “old ladies” aren’t particularly harmless – they can be mean, nasty and physically aggressive.  The rest of our protesters are the poster children for “Reasons to have Buffer Zones.”


If the buffer zone law is overturned, think about how much louder, more verbally aggressive, and more obnoxious our protesters may become.  I know, that’s  hard to imagine, but it could happen.  And they’ll be cocky about it.  You know they will.


But that’s not what really gets me.  What really gets me is that IT’S NOT FAIR!  People SHOULD NOT have to put up with being harassed and being intimidated on the way to the doctor.  It’s WRONG!!  They should feel safe – and be safe!  The court is SUPPOSED to PROTECT people!!

{I think I mentally stomp my foot a couple of times while I’m thinking that, which is about as close to a tantrum as I get.  In real life, I might throw in the F-word too. Supposed to FRIGGING protect people!!}

Then this annoyingly reasonable voice in my head says, “Right, it’s not fair, life’s not fair, the fair comes in August, blah, blah, blah.”   That same voice says, “It would be nice if the court were able to protect people, and keep them from being harassed and intimidated, but that may not happen.  If it doesn’t – if they overturn the buffer zone laws, what can we do to push back?”

Sigh.  Ok, if I have to be reasonable… here’s what we do.

We keep working on the laws.  We keep fighting the injustices that are introduced in the legislature over and over.  We keep finding ways to support people who need abortions, financially, by helping with transportation and interpreters and childcare.  We keep speaking out to reduce stigma.

But on the sidewalk (where it’s going to be a delightful 19 degrees tomorrow morning) how do we stay focused, how do we continue to be ok, no matter what happens?  What do we offer the clients ~ the ones who pull their hoods up, the ones who cry, the ones who laugh, and the ones who yell at the protesters as we walk with them?


We do the same thing we’ve been doing; we offer the same thing we’ve been offering.  A calm, supportive presence.

It doesn’t matter what they do.  It doesn’t matter if there are buffer zones or not, it doesn’t matter if the protesters are meaner, uglier and nastier than they’ve ever been before.  All we have to do is be there.

All we have to do is hold space for the clients to be empowered as they walk to the clinic.  To work to de-escalate situations.  To stay calm, purposeful and focused.    Just like we try to do every week.

I’ll carry those words tomorrow like a mantra.  Hold space for the client to be empowered… De-escalate situations… Stay calm, purposeful and focused…  It won’t be easy, but I can do that.

15 thoughts on “Buffer Zone Laws

      • Yep! I think the only actual argument they have would be if counter-protesters were allowed in the buffer zone while antis were not. However, employees and escorts are not carrying signs so it is obvious they are not there to debate. On the other hand, I see many “prayer warriors” and “side walk counselors” with signs protesting so they should be outside the buffer zone. I have no problem with buffer zones around the cpc (not that many people go there anyway). Although this is nothing compared to Louisville, there are pictures (on anti sites) of them walking back and forth over the enentrance to parking lots. What we really need is a new FACE Act that has nationwide buffer zones. Antis can carry on however they want outside the zone but we can no longer rely on cities and states to protect people.

    • Yes, I had read that! From my understanding the “concern” is that what happens in front of clinics is some kind of debate, and that by imposing a buffer zone they are silencing the debate. Of course, all us pro-choice or pro-access folks know this is crap! Clinic escorts and employees are not engaging political protests. They are trying to do their jobs. I guess maybe they are referring to actual counter-protests but mostly escorts are going about their business of helping women access reproductive health care. And finally, these “gentle counselors” are little more than groups of stalkers, no matter how grandmawish they look. There may be 3 gentle souls who bring 100 screeching bullies with them.

      • Well, that helps clear that up. Thanks. And it also shows they don’t get what’s going on at the clinic. I think they should all come visit us next Saturday – um, not in their robes… Wouldn’t that be fun, and enlightening for them?

        Thanks for the input.

  1. It makes me wonder how ridiculous someone would look going to a dental clinic and standing outside and yelling “KEEP ALL THE TEETH IN YOUR HEAD! DON’T LET THEM TAKE YOUR TOOTH!” But that’s the thing, people who support women having access to abortion wouldn’t do something ridiculous like that. (Though it appeals to me as performance art.)

    • I know, KJ, we talk about stuff like that too. It would be totally ridiculous, of course. Creates a lovely image though. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I hope that the Court realizes that “freedom of speech” is NOT akin to access…I might protest some of what the President does…and I can go and protest…but not right in his face, right? buffer zones are needed so that people…women…can go see their doctor for whatever reason. I hope–and pray..that the court will see it the same.

      • I am not familiar with the acronym OWS…but I wonder if you misconstrued my comment? I am definitely in support of buffer zones. I don’t think that people…man, woman, or child…should have to run a gauntlet of screaming, rabid “believers” who think it is okay to harass, threaten, or intimidate people as they make their way down the sidewalk.

      • I am not familiar with the acronym OWS

        I should have been more clear, my apologies. OWS = Occupy Wall Street aka the protests against the startling income disparity in the US.

        I am definitely in support of buffer zones.

        As am I. The legislation as of late seems to be coming at the expense of already marginalized groups.

        No woman should have to face gauntlet to obtain legal medical procedures – ever.

        I’m sorry that I was not more clear in my previous comment.

    • Agreed! I’m baffled on how they could legally get away with saying buffer zone laws are a violation of the First Amendment because last I checked, creating buffer zones is used regularly for all kinds of protests where they don’t want the peaceful assembly to turn into violent harrassment.

      • Yeah, I think the same thing, Longtail, but they are presenting this like the abortion clinic is the only place it happens. Totally no sense. Of course, it also doesn’t make sense to me that they think escorts and clinic staff are like protesters but on the opposite side. Sheesh.

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