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Planned Parenthood Pledges to Protect Patients Following SCOTUS Ruling

PHOTO: Writing for the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts said the Massachusetts law providing a buffer zone for protests around abortion clinics violated the First Amendment. However, those who work at and use those clinics say the buffer zone is important to balance safety with free speech. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: Writing for the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts said the Massachusetts law providing a buffer zone for protests around abortion clinics violated the First Amendment. However, those who work at and use those clinics say the buffer zone is important to balance safety with free speech. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
June 30, 2014

ST. LOUIS - They call themselves "sidewalk counselors" - but women trying to access, visit or work at health clinics say they've been harassed or threatened by them. That's why some women's health advocates say they're disappointed by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to strike down a Massachusetts law setting a 35-foot buffer zone around clinics that provide abortion services.

M'Evie Mead, statewide director of organizing for Planned Parenthood Affiliates and Advocates in Missouri, said ensuring safe access to its facilities will remain a top priority.

"Our patients come in frequently very, very upset by what they have to encounter," she said, "We think women should be able to make carefully considered, private medical decisions without judgement from strangers and abusive and physically threatening protestors."

In its unanimous ruling, the court found that Massachusetts had violated the First Amendment and shut off a traditional public forum for expression of free speech.

Mead said that women come to Planned Parenthood for many reasons - including health exams, cancer screenings, tests for sexually-transmitted diseases and birth control. In her view, no matter what the nature of the visit, all women deserve privacy and respect.

"We will continue to work with law enforcement to make sure that they are implementing local and federal laws that do protect the rights of our patients, staff and visitors to safely access care," she said.

According to a recent National Abortion Federation survey, nearly 90 percent of abortion providers reported patients entering their facilities express concerns about personal safety, and more than 80 percent of clinics have called law enforcement because of safety, access or criminal activity concerns.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO