Thursday, June 26, 2014

Buffer Zone

     By now, many of you have heard of the interesting Supreme Court decisions from today.  The one I seem to be focused on is the unanimous decision to overturn the Massachusetts buffer zone around abortion clinics.  I was unsure about whether or not I should write about this topic - unlike so many other things we could discuss, most people seem to pick a side on this one and stick to it.  No matter what your opinion is, I respect and honor it.  I have friends and family on both sides of the debate.  I'm sure you reached your personal decision after thought and soul searching.  For my part, I have no problem telling you that I am pro-choice for a number of reasons, but first and foremost, this is my body.  I believe that no one has the right to tell me what choices to make concerning it, as I am the only one that has to deal with the consequences related to my decisions. 
     For those of you unaware of the Massachusetts buffer zone, it allowed a 35 foot zone around abortion clinics, and Planned Parenthood facilities that provide abortion services, which protestors, counselors and other forms of speech had to stay outside.  The law was enacted in 2007 in response to a history of harassment and violence at abortion clinics in Massachusetts, including a shooting rampage at two facilities in 1994 that left two people dead.  Let me repeat ... a shooting rampage in which two people were killed.  At that time, the buffer zone was 8 feet.
     With today's reversal, the buffer zone is now gone, allowing protestors to be right up at the door, as long as they don't impede a person's ability to enter.  If you haven't ever seen a protest outside of a clinic, there are graphic signs and posters, often people with pamphlets and varying levels of shouting.  The protestors often say they shout because of the distance.  Certainly, there are people who don't yell, who feel an intense desire to help or inform.  I respect that ... and emotions run high on both sides, but we can point to examples where others have become fanatical.
     As access to affordable healthcare and reproductive services for poor women diminish around the country, many clinics and Planned Parenthood facilities provide other essential resources ... from contraceptives, to physicals, to advice and counseling on your gynecological health concerns.  From personal experience, I was able to go to a Planned Parenthood and get a pregnancy test for free when I was pregnant with baby #1.  We didn't have a lot of money, and the expense of a boxed kit from the grocery store would have meant cutting into our food bill.  I will tell you that as I was walking towards the door, those glaring posters and people yelling out I'd be sorry (etc.) were quite disconcerting ... and I was happily hoping I was pregnant.  I have friends who go to Planned Parenthood to pick up their birth control and have to listen to protesters screaming at them.  What will it be like now that they can be inches away from you.  Again, for many, in their hearts, they want to offer other solutions or advice.  But I know that if you're approaching one of these facilities after having made a very difficult decision, after knowing in your heart that this is the choice you must make, to have someone standing inches from you, screaming in your face ... I can't imagine how frightening and soul crushing that would be.
     And they will be inches from your face.  In one of the radio commentaries I heard on the way home, one of more vocal Massachusetts protestors said, "The law clearly states now that my rights end where your nose begins." 
     Maybe that's the point.  Maybe if you can stand that close to someone ... an inch from their nose ... maybe you think that you can change their mind, and maybe you can.  But it's more likely that you'll have frightened them off for today or for a few weeks.  Until it's too late to do it safely and in a medical environment.  They will be shamed and chastised into no choice.  Or maybe another child will come into this world, into a situation where they may or may not be able to be cared for properly, or they'll enter the broken and ill-managed foster care system, or maybe not.  Maybe none of those things will happen.  Or maybe someone will say, well then you shouldn't have had sex in the first place, shouldn't have believed that your relationship was going to work out, shouldn't have ... fill in the blank.  Arguments we've heard before. 
     I worry about what the future will hold for myself, for my children and their children. These are not easy decisions to make and living with these decisions can be a challenge.  As reproductive choices stretch thinner across this country, women's choices become harder and harder - another way in which economic and financial controls are levied.  At the root, this isn't about babies.  This is about control over your future and being kept in line ... kept as a cog in the machine.
     I value my free speech, but I know that it's not as free as we believe it to be.  Just as our bodies aren't as free as we'd like to believe they are either.  

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