Press Release: Supreme Court Thwarts “Buffer Zone” Initiative and Turns its Back on Women

For Immediate Release: June 26, 2014

Rachel Cooke // 202.419.3420 x45 rachel@advocatesforyouth.org

Today the Supreme Court turned its back on women. Instead of upholding a law enacted to protect the safety of patients and staff, the Court ruled to inhibit women’s ability to freely exercise their right to abortion care—a right afforded by the Court itself over forty years ago—and chose instead to allow protesters to continue their routine of harassment, intimidation, and shaming of women seeking abortion care.

“With this ruling the Supreme Court is sending a message to women that they are on their own. They are telling women across the country that while they may have the right to an abortion, they will have to suffer to exercise it,” said Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth. “If they had spoken to any number of the 1 in 3 women who have had an abortion in the US, they would have ensured access to safe and dignified care.” Ninety-two percent of clinics report concerns over the safety of employees and patients approaching the facilities and 23.5 percent report at least one incident of severe violence. Clinic employees and patients often find themselves outnumbered in a sea of threats, lies, and vicious chants. The Court’s failure to protect women further exposes patients and employees of abortion clinics to shame and terror at the hands of protesters.

“In my years as a clinic escort and a patient I have endured the severe verbal abuse, bullying, and threats spewed by relentless protesters,” said Heather Bryan. “People should not have to hear ‘we’re coming for you’ and ‘you’re heartless’ when they may already be faced with tough personal decisions and in need of accessing vital healthcare. The Supreme Court decision is a grave injustice.”

Cultural and structural barriers already severely inhibit women from seeking abortion or other reproductive health services. 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime. However, instead of unobstructed access to safe and dignified care, women are made to feel stigma and shame around abortion. Anti-choice protestors leave no space for understanding or compassion towards those on the receiving end of their haranguing. They are a physical manifestation of the tense political climate with which women must wade through upon consideration of abortion.

Buffer zones are not unusual in our country. They are used at funerals, polling places, even around the Supreme Court to ensure and uphold the rights and safety of individuals doing their jobs and living their lives. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court decided that women and the staff at clinics are not deserving of the same safety protections the Justices receive as they go about doing their jobs. Today, the Court has turned a blind eye to the real experiences of women.


Advocates for Youth is a national nonprofit that champions programs and advocates for policies that help young people make informed and responsible decisions about their sexual health. Advocates’ Youth Activist Network stands 75,000 strong on 1,000 campuses and in tens of thousands of communities.