1997 Clinic Violence Survey Report
BUFFER ZONES PROTECT ONE-THIRD OF CLINICS
Approximately one third of clinics (105) in the 1997 survey were protected by buffer zones established either by courts or local governing bodies. Buffer zones prohibit specific forms of disruptive conduct from occurring in a zone surrounding clinics or, in some cases, a zone outside of clinic worker homes. In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the use of buffer zones around clinics in Schenck v. Pro-choice Network of Western New York. The Court upheld a 15-foot fixed buffer zone, with the Court making it clear that the permissible size of the zone should be contingent on record of anti-abortion violence and the geographic location of the clinic. The Court had previously upheld buffer zones around clinics in the U.S. Supreme Court's 1994 ruling in Madsen v. Women's Health Center . Approximately the same percentage of clinics reported buffer zones in the survey in 1996 as did in 1997.
Over half (54.3%) of clinics with buffer zones had a protected perimeter around the clinics. Of these 57 clinics, the majority had protected zones of less than 25 feet -- 22.8% have buffer zones under 10 feet in distance, 31.6% between 10 and 24 feet, 14% between 25-49 feet, and 14% with zones of 50 feet or over.
One in five clinics with buffer zones were protected by buffer zones which specified the permissible level of sound outside of clinics. Six clinics (5.7%) with buffer zones had areas protected around clinic worker homes.
Clinics with buffer zones were more likely than clinics without buffer zones to report that they had experienced decreases in every form of violence. In 1996, clinics reported statistically significant differences in perceived levels of specific types of violence when we compared clinics with and without buffer zones. In 1997, however, the differences in perceived levels of specific violence types were slight and not statistically significant.