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letters | Views from both sides of the buffer zone

Whatever the buffer zone, activists’ behavior seems like harassment

Abortion opponents protested outside Planned Parenthood in Boston on June 28, two days after the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts buffer zone law. Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

If a strange man followed a woman on the street, even after she rebuffed him, in a manner that caused her serious alarm, we would call that harassment, defined by Massachusetts law as “willfully and maliciously [engaging] in a knowing pattern of conduct” toward “a specific person” that “seriously [alarmed] that person and would cause a reasonable person substantial emotional distress.” If that same man defended his actions, saying, “I have a right to free speech. I’m only seeking a personal, caring, consensual conversation with this woman,” that would not excuse his harassing behavior.

In her column “With no buffer, patients pressed” (Metro, June 29), Yvonne Abraham describes a remarkably similar scenario: an anti-abortion protester who “pursues women even after they’ve rebuffed her,” to the point that one woman “literally ran away from her.”

Anti-abortion activists may see themselves as seeking what the Supreme Court describes as “personal, caring, consensual conversations,” but when the women with whom they seek these conversations are saying no and displaying signs of alarm and substantial emotional distress, why aren’t the activists’ actions treated as illegal harassment, buffer law or no?

Veronica Barron
Cambridge