before the buffer zone 1.22.14
We were in the car, my husband and I, when Nina Totenberg’s voice came on the radio, interviewing the lead plaintiff in a case that would go in front of the U.S. Supreme Court that day. In question are the buffer zones that have been enforced around Planned Parenthood clinics in Massachusetts since 2007. Totenberg was out in front of the clinic in Brookline, Mass., interviewing Eleanor McCullen, a 70-something grandmother who told her the buffer zones infringe on her right to try and talk women out of having an abortion as they head into the clinic.
I had a head-exploding moment. “That is such an inaccurate picture of what it’s like out in front of the clinics,” I told my husband. He knows, I’ve gone on about this before. I didn’t need to convince him so I wrote a piece for Cognoscenti, describing what I saw as a volunteer escort for Planned Parenthood in the early 90s: large crowds of poster-wielding protesters harassing women at a time when it’s safe to assume, they’d rather be left alone.
When Cognoscenti told me they wanted to use the piece, I celebrated and then braced myself for an outpouring of anti-abortion rhetoric. To my surprise, both on Cognoscenti and Facebook, the vast majority of people who commented also found the protesters out of line and added their details of bad behavior at the clinics:
- A man with a framed photo of John Salvi in his hand screaming at a woman who sat crying on the curb
- Women having to shoulder their way through crowds shouting “Murderer” so they could have a gynecological check-up
- A woman who was handed a rose wrapped in cellophane on her way into the clinic, only to discover that the person who gave it to her had chopped off the rose’s head so it would fall in her lap when she opened it
It’s been 20 years since I was a volunteer escort for Planned Parenthood, but the scenes outside of clinics that provide safe, legal abortion services are just as bad, if not worse, as they were all those years ago.