On Tuesday, October 28, Temple Law Students for Reproductive Justice (LSRJ) and Temple Health Law Society (HLS) presented “Venturing into a Minefield: The Supreme Court’s Assault on Abortion Access in McCullen v. Coakley.” The panel featured David Cohen, Associate Professor of Law at Drexel University; Maggie Groff, Vice President of External Affairs at Planned Parenthood Southeastern PA,; and Pennsylvania State Senator Larry Farnese, LAW ’94.
Professor Cohen began by providing background on federal and state laws passed in response to targeted harassment and increasing violence at reproductive health care clinics. Professor Cohen then gave an overview of the McCullen v. Coakley decision. The Professor noted that several considerations were missing from the Court’s discussion, including: clinic protestors who are not “gentle counselors,” the experiences of clinic patients and staff, and a woman’s right to an abortion.
Ms. Groff followed by emphasizing that buffer zone laws are crucial to public safety; the Massachusetts law in question was passed after two clinic workers were shot and killed by a gunman in 1994. She lamented the fact that women’s health has been a low priority among the current Supreme Court. Ms. Groff strongly encouraged students who care about the future of women’s health and rights to vote in the next presidential election, as new justices will likely be appointed.
Wrapping up the panel was Senator Farnese, who provided his unique perspective as a pro-choice legislator in an overwhelmingly anti-choice state. Senator Farnese expressed his belief that clinic safety is a central element of a woman’s right to access abortion services. The Senator discussed his bill, SB 1208, which would create buffer zones around Pennsylvania’s reproductive health care clinics. He expressed the importance of such bills in signaling support for women’s reproductive health and rights.
Temple Law Students for Reproductive Justice continues its effort to assist local clinics by training volunteers to escort patients to and from the clinics to shield them from protestors.