Watch: ‘Murder on Abortion Row’ -PBS 1996 FRONTLINE
Today’s unanimous Supreme Court decision to overturn a Massachusetts law allowing a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics marks a victory for the pro-life movement, which argued that protesters have a right to approach and try to counsel women who might be seeking an abortion.
The court found the law violated First Amendment protections by prohibiting speech on public streets. Although the court said it would allow states to pass laws ensuring access to reproductive health facilities, today’s ruling rolled back protections put in place after several years of clashes at clinics in Massachusetts, where pro-life protesters attacked and even killed people who worked there.
In 1996, FRONTLINE took an in-depth look at one case that helped lead to the buffer zone law. Two years earlier, John Salvi, a radical young Catholic abortion opponent, opened fire on two clinics in Brookline, Mass., just outside Boston, and killed two women: Shannon Lowney, a 25-year-old receptionist at Planned Parenthood, and Lee Ann Nichols, who worked as a receptionist at PreTerm, the clinic down the street.