Background

While the handful of murders of abortion providers and clinic staff have attracted much media attention, family planning clinics report that they frequently experience other serious forms of antiabortion violence. These include bombings, arson and vandalism, as well as violent protests and blockades. In 1994, the federal government enacted the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which prohibits intentional property damage and the use of “force or threat of force or…physical obstruction” to “injure, intimidate or interfere with” someone entering a health care facility.

States have taken two approaches designed to protect abortion providers. Some states have enacted laws similar to the federal FACE Act that prohibit specific activities such as vandalism or obstruction at clinics. Other states have limited protests aimed at clinic patients by either creating “buffer” zones around clinics that bar protestors entirely or establishing floating “bubble zones” of several feet around a person who is within a specific distance of a clinic; protesters are prohibited from crossing into that “bubble zone” without the person’s consent. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Massachusetts law that placed a 35-foot buffer zone around clinic entrances. The impact of this ruling on the New Hampshire law is still to be determined, but the decision did not immediately affect the Court’s 2000 ruling that upheld Colorado’s floating “bubble zone” law.

Highlights

2019.09.01_slp_-_protecting_access_to_clinics.pdf

Protecting Access to Clinics

STATE

SPECIFIC PROHIBITED ACTIONS

PROTECTED "BUBBLE ZONE"

Obstruction

Threat

Damage

Telephone Harassment

Other

California*

X

X

X

 

Online harassmentβ​

 

Colorado

 

 

 

 

 

8-ft. zone within 100 ft. of door

Dist. of Columbia

X

X

 

X

Noise, Trespassing

 

Kansas

X

 

 

 

 

 

Maine

X

 

 

X

Noise, Odor

 

Maryland

X

 

 

 

 

 

Massachusetts

X

X

 

 

 

25 feet if ordered by police

Michigan

 

X

 

 

 

 

Minnesota

X

 

 

 

 

 

Montana

X

 

 

 

 

8-ft. zone within 36 ft. of door

Nevada

X

 

 

 

 

 

New Hampshire

 

 

 

 

 

New York

X

X

X

 

 

 

North Carolina

X

X

 

 

Weapon on site

 

Oregon

X

 

X

 

 

 

Washington

X

X

 

X

Noise, Trespassing

 

Wisconsin

 

 

 

 

Trespassing

 

TOTAL

12 + DC

6 + DC

3

2 + DC

5 + DC

3

*    Requires the collection and analysis of data by state attorney general's office and training for law enforcement officers by experts on clinic
      violence.

β​ Prohibits posting of contact information and images of reproductive health service providers.
  New law was scheduled to take effect in 2014; currently not enforced.