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Abortion Seekers Still Protected At NW Clinics After Supreme Court Ruling

Jessica Robinson
Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho CEO Karl Eastlund stands in the parking lot of the Spokane clinic.

Abortion services providers say the Supreme Court’s ruling on a 35-foot “buffer zones”around Massachusetts clinics won’t have much effect in the Northwest.

Neither Washington, Oregon nor Idaho has the kind of law that the high court deemed unconstitutional. Clinics in the region rely on other measures aimed at protesters.

At the Planned Parenthood in Spokane, the entrance is set back about 50 feet from the road, inside a fenced-in parking lot. This is private property, so the clinic is allowed to keep protesters out.

“Every time we evaluate where to put a building, what street to be located on, we have to take into account protester activity and to try to make sure we protect our patients — their privacy, the distance where they can park, not be harassed trying to get into our clinics,” said Karl Eastlund, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and North Idaho.

And none of that will change. The problem the Supreme Court had with Massachusetts’ law was that it restricted speech on public property. The ruling also doesn’t change a federal law that makes it illegal to threaten or intimidate people seeking reproductive services, or to physically obstruct them.

In Oregon, a class-action suit was filed in 1995 under that law. It targeted anti-abortion groups that publicized the names and home addresses of doctors who performed abortions. Washington also has a law against intimidating people seeking reproductive services.

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.