Factors Predicting the Enactment of Abortion Clinic Access Laws

This summer, I will be conducting my Monroe research on state-level abortion clinic access laws. Ultimately, this project will lay the groundwork for my senior thesis in the Government department. I’m excited to get started! My abstract is below:

During the early 1990s, reproductive health clinics experienced a spike in targeted violence. In response, several states passed laws specifically aimed at protecting patients’ access to clinics and clinic employees’ safety called “abortion clinic access laws.” Currently, 13 states have clinic access laws prohibiting damage to clinic property, harassment of those going into clinics, obstruction of clinic entrances, and/or online harassment of clinic employees. Moreover, four states—Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Montana—have implemented laws creating “buffer zones” around abortion clinics. Buffer zone laws are the most contentious kind of clinic access law, as both Colorado’s and Massachusetts’ buffer zone statutes have been challenged by antiabortion protestors in cases that reached the Supreme Court. In these cases, protestors held that buffer zone laws violated their First Amendment right to free speech (as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment) by prohibiting them from approaching and speaking to clinic patients. In my Honors project, I will explore the factors that explain why states enact various kinds of clinic access laws or fail to do so even if they have experienced episodes of clinic violence. Additionally, I intend to investigate the factors that make it more likely that a state will enact a buffer zone law in addition to or instead of other kinds of clinic access laws, given their contentious nature. Based on previous work on the factors predicting the enactment of state-level abortion restrictions, I predict that Democratic control of a state’s executive and legislature will be the most salient predictor of the enactment of both clinic access laws and buffer zone laws. Additionally, given that buffer zone laws have been challenged on the grounds that they infringed upon protestors’ First Amendment right to free speech, I hypothesize that states that have enacted buffer zone laws have historically enacted laws that tend to restrict free speech.