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To arrange a media interview with Ellie Smeal or other spokespersons at Feminist Majority Foundation, contact the FMF media department at 703-522-2214.


Date: February-19-97

Statement of Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority Foundation: "Schenck Decision Upholding Fixed Buffer Zones Is Victory For Abortion Clinics, But Decision To Strike Down A Floating Buffer Zone In This Case Could Not Have Come At A Worse Time."

The U.S. Supreme Courts decision today in Schenck v. Pro-choice Network of Western New York by once again emphatically upholding fixed buffer zones at clinics is a victory for women seeking abortions and for womens health care providers. The Court upheld two of the three forms of injunctive relief sought by the Buffalo clinic by allowing not only fixed buffer zones but also by recognizing the right of clinic personnel and patients to wave off anti-abortion "side-walk counselors" within these zones.

In this case, the Court upheld a 15-foot fixed buffer zone, but this decision in also upholding the 1994 Madsen decision of 36 feet zone makes clear that the size of the zone is dependent on record of anti-abortion violence and the geographic location of the clinic.

Although the Court struck down a floating buffer zone in this case, it left open the possibility of a floating buffer zone in other cases. Chief Justice Rehnquist in this essentially protective decision did not rule out the possibility of floating buffer zones if the record of anti-abortion extremist behavior at a particular clinic warranted this remedy. The decision simply said that the record in this particular case did not warrant a floating buffer zone.

If the Schenck decision emboldens anti-abortion extremists to engage in more violence and harassment at clinics, the striking down of the Buffalo "floating" buffer zone could not have come at a worse time. Since December, a New Orleans abortion doctor has been stabbed 15 times, a Tulsa clinic has been bombed several times, an Atlanta clinic was bombed twice, and last night a Northern Virginia clinic was arsoned. Those of us engaged in protecting clinics and health care workers have noticed an appreciable increase in anti-abortion terrorism at clinics recently.

Fixed buffer zones are an essential tool in preventing anti-abortion violence. Approximately one-third of clinics (31.7%) are currently protected by buffer zones. The Feminist Majority Foundations 1996 National Clinic Violence Survey found that clinics with buffer zones reported far greater decreases in death threats, blockades, and invasions than clinics without buffer zones.