NASW hopes U.S. Supreme Court will uphold safety zones around reproductive health facilities

supremecourt2The National Association of Social Workers and its Massachusetts Chapter are closely watching the U.S. Supreme Court case McCullen v. Coakley and hope the court will rule in favor of keeping safety buffer zones around reproductive health care facilities in Massachusetts.

The court on Jan. 15 will hear oral arguments on whether the law is constitutional. A ruling is expected by spring or early summer.

Buffer zones such as the one enacted in Massachusetts ensure women and their health care providers can enter such facilities without fear of threats, intimidation and violence.

The danger is real. Since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973 anti-abortion extremists have committed acts of violence around reproductive health care facilities.

Hundreds of these facilities have been bombed, set on fire, attacked with acid, or blockaded. And at least eight people have been killed in or near such facilities, including four doctors, two clinic employees, a security guard and an escort.

A protestor stands outside a buffer zone at Planned Parenthood in Boston. Photo courtesy of The Daily Free Press.

A protestor stands outside a buffer zone at Planned Parenthood in Boston. Photo courtesy of The Daily Free Press.

The Massachusetts buffer zones create a safe space around such facilities while allowing anti-choice protestors to distribute literature or speak  to whomever they want outside of the area. Law enforcement officials in Massachusetts also support the buffer zone law because it has been effective in curbing violence.

NASW policies support the right of individuals to manage their fertility and have access to family planning and reproductive health services, including contraception, abortion services, and treatment of HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases.

NASW is part of a coalition of organizations, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, the National Abortion Federation and the Feminist Majority Foundation, that supports buffer zones. And NASW and the NASW Massachusetts Chapter are among more than 30 organizations that joined to file an amicus brief in the Supreme Court that calls for continuation of the Massachusetts law.

For more information on McCullen v. Coakley contact NASW General Counsel Carolyn Polowy at NASW also urges members to write letters to the editor and use social media to educate the public about the need for buffer zones. For talking points contact NASW Senior Public Relations and Communications Specialist Greg Wright at Social workers who would like to demonstrate at the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 15 are invited to join members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. For more information on participating contact Public Policy Manager Joanna Blotner at


  1. The Supreme Court has rendered its decision and has ruled the Massachusetts law is unconsitutional. They have determined the buffer zones violate the First Amendment rights to free speech. They also noted the bias of allowing one side of counseling (the clinic’s) but not the other side of counseling to be offered when a patient enters an abortion clinic.

    NASW’s amicus brief was well-intentioned, but did not consider the First Amendment rights being argued.

    God Bless America, a country in which all opinions may be stated (whether or not we agree with them).

  2. I’m annoyed that the decision hasn’t been handed down yet, I’ve been fervently waiting on this one! I hope the SC upholds the buffer zones!

  3. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thank you for posting this information with the link to the amicus brief. The brief is well-written and presents a sound arguement for the buffer zones at abortion clinics and other health centers.

    Please post the Court’s decision on this case… it will be interesting to analyze their reasoning and determine next steps for other states.

  5. Thanks for the information.It’s so educative.

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