Abortion services providers say the Supreme Court’s ruling on 35-foot “buffer zones” around Massachusetts clinics won’t have much effect in the Northwest.
Neither Washington, Oregon nor Idaho has the kind of law that the high court deemed unconstitutional. Clinics in the region rely on other measures aimed at protesters.
At the Planned Parenthood in Spokane, the entrance is set back about 50 feet from the road, inside a fenced-in parking lot. This is private property, so the clinic is allowed to keep protesters out.
Karl Eastlund, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho, said, “Every time we evaluate where to put a building, what street to be located on, we have to take into account protester activity and to try to make sure we protect our patients. Their privacy, the distance where they can park, not be harassed trying to get into our clinics.”
And none of that will change. The problem the Supreme Court had with Massachusetts’ law was that it restricted speech on public property. The ruling also doesn’t change a federal law that makes it illegal to threaten or intimidate people seeking reproductive services, or to physically obstruct them.
In Oregon, a class action suit was filed in 1995 under that law. It targeted anti-abortion groups that publicized the names and home addresses of doctors who performed abortions. Washington also has a law against intimidating people seeking reproductive services.