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Drexel Law Expert Available to Discuss Violence Against Abortion Clinic Workers

A pro-life van parked outside of an abortion clinic.
A pro-life van parked outside of an abortion clinic.

In light of the upcoming ruling by the Supreme Court on the abortion clinic buffer zone case McCullen vs. Coakley, David S. Cohen, JD, is available to comment on violence against abortion clinic workers and other issues related to reproductive rights. Cohen is a constitutional law and gender issues expert and an associate professor at the School of Law at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

In McCullen v. Coakley, Eleanor McCullen, a 77-year-old member of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, is challenging a 2007 Massachusetts law that makes it a crime for public speakers other than clinic employees to be within 35 feet of entrances to facilities where abortions are performed.

McCullen argues that the law’s “buffer zones” violate her First Amendment right to free speech. In contrast, Massachusetts state officials point to a history of violence and disorderly conduct outside of reproductive health care facilities in the United States, which initially led to passage of the law.

According to the National Abortion Federation, there have been 8 documented murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 181 arsons, 399 invasions, 100 acid attacks and 663 bioterrorism threats targeting abortion providers and their facilities in the United States and Canada since 1977.

A candlelight vigil in Boston for George Tiller, an abortion doctor who was murdered on May 31 five years ago. Photo credit: Tim Pierce.

Cohen recently completed a groundbreaking national study about the toll that working under the constant threat of violence takes on abortion clinic workers. He is writing a book on this subject, which is due out later this year from Oxford University Press.

“Doctors and other clinic workers and volunteers face threats on a daily basis,” said Cohen. “Buffer zones that require protesters to keep a specified distance from women’s health clinic entrances are critical to protecting patients and care providers from harassment and worse. Buffer zones don’t cure the problem, but they provide a space.”

Cohen is a frequent media commentator who has been interviewed on MSNBC’s “Melissa Harris-Perry Show” and has been quoted by, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, among numerous other outlets.

David S. Cohen is an expert on constitutional law and gender issues.

Cohen’s scholarship explores the intersection of constitutional law and gender, emphasizing sex segregation, masculinity and violence against abortion providers. He also researches voting anomalies in the Supreme Court. Cohen previously worked as a fellow and staff attorney for the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia, where he handled a range of cases involving reproductive rights, sex discrimination under Title IX, health insurance coverage of contraceptives, health care for women prisoners and family rights for gay and lesbian couples.

He received his JD from Columbia University School of Law, where he was named a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and received the Public Interest Commitment Award and two Columbia Human Rights Fellowships. He was managing editor of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and articles editor of the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law.

Members of the news media who are interested in speaking with Cohen can contact Alex McKechnie at 215-895-2705 or

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