NASW-Massachusetts statement on Supreme Court Buffer Zone ruling

The National Association of Social Workers – Massachusetts Chapter (NASW-MA) and NASW’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C. are disappointed by a United States Supreme Court ruling on Thursday that unanimously overturned the Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot buffer zone around health clinics offering abortion services.  The Court stated that establishing these zones infringed on the First Amendment rights of pro-life protestors.

NASW and its Massachusetts chapter were among more than 30 organizations that filed an amicus brief with the court seeking to continue the original  Massachusetts law.

NASW-MA is concerned because the high court’s ruling on Thursday could negatively affect both women’s rights and patient safety. NASW-MA supports women’s choice and is committed to “unimpeded access to services to all,” including health care and family planning services.

The Chapter urges the Massachusetts legislature to work expeditiously to determine legal restrictions that will ensure the safety and privacy of patients visiting these clinics, while also protecting the right to free speech.  These measures should be approved by both the House and the Senate by the end of the legislative session in July.

For more information contact NASW-MA Membership Development Associate Joell Beagle at



  1. Please read the SCOTUS decision at the link I provided in the previous post. Their decision was based upon the First Amendment right to Free Speech for ALL, not “reproductive” rights.

    I come from many experiences of being harrassed for my political/social views from graduate school, being a three-time Delegate to Delegate Assembly and from Social Work colleagues over the years. Yet, I have served NASW and SSWLHC as an elected Chapter President for each organization, Delegate to Delegate Assembly and on multiple Chapter committees (including Ethics).

    We may not always agree on issues, but it’s wonderful to live in a country where we may freely express our opinions. Let’s keep the dialogue coming….

  2. the 35 foot buffer zone did what it was intended to do – prevent the on-going harassment of women seeking reproductive health services. without it, clinics will have to respond to harassment and violence after it occurs. It’s hard to imagine a gastroenterology clinic offering outpatient surgical services that would tolerate “petitioning/protesting/speech” directed at patients entering the doors. Those who harass patients at reproductive health clinics have no idea why a woman may be entering the clinic: to receive a cervical exam/pap test, birth control device or prescription, rape test, or an abortion, among other services. ant-choice protestors simply presume to know what is best for women and feel at liberty to deny them their right to self-determination.

  3. The SCOTUS full ruling is available at

    Reading the ruling, it’s important to note the overturned Massachussetts law created buffer zones to restrict petitioning/protesting/speech at ONLY abortion clinics, no where else. Also, it notes “petitioning” is a separate process from “protesting”. It’s a good read.

  4. Thank you for your statement against this ruling. What protestors do at clinics is not counseling.

  5. Margaret E. Witham

    Thank you! Please continue your leadership on this critical issue for women seeking to exercise choice!

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