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The 1980s heralded an era of vicious and unprecedented violence against reproductive healthcare facilities and providers. In 1985, anti-family planning and anti-choice zealots declared a "Year of Pain and Fear" and launched an epidemic of firebombing, vandalism, burglary, death threats and assault that continues, in some form, today. PPLM clinics endured much of this harassment. In 1994, a brutal gunman, fueled by anti-abortion hatred and zealotry, entered the front doors of PPLM’s Brookline clinic, murdered staff member Shannon Lowney, and critically wounded three others. He then attacked Preterm Health Services, killing staff member Lee Ann Nichols and injuring two more victims. Once again, a tragic episode in PPLM’s painful but phenomenal story of courageously pursuing and protecting reproductive freedom served to embolden the staff, the clients and the supporters. Says former Board President Jamie Sabino, remembering that horrific time with great sadness, "It actually brought out the best in everyone."
A volunteer Escort Service was created in response to the largest anti-Choice group in MA, Operation Rescue’s campaign of harassing patients as they arrived at PPLM clinics. Nancy and Kim Faulker, involved with PPLM for nearly 50 years, were early escorts and heard every imaginable vindictive, vicious name shouted at them. Says Nancy, "Being an escort is often dull and boring, but the opportunity to help just one patient successfully navigate the emotionally charged entrance to the clinic makes the job worthwhile. It did twenty years ago and it still does today."
In 1992, PPLM’s advocacy helped pass the Clinic Access Law, the first pro-choice legislation ever passed in this state. The law made it illegal for protesters to blockade clinic doors, a popular protest technique. Two years later, Congress enacted the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, making it a federal crime to use or attempt force, the threat of force or physical obstruction to injure, intimidate or interfere with providers of reproductive health care services or their patients.
PPLM’s School Based Education Programs in the 1990s gave thousands of young people access to information about their bodies, their choices, and their futures and gave parents and teachers avenues for opening informed, age-appropriate conversations about these critical issues. Creative education initiatives are now available to enable teens and young adults to honestly and openly talk about peer pressure, bullying, self-esteem, decision-making and sex. Many current and former PPLM board members view these education programs as one of PPLM’s greatest accomplishments. Innovative programs aimed particularly at parents of middle school students, educators, clergy and counselors are designed to help initiate what can often be tough conversations with adolescents. A major goal now is to see this curriculum integrated into every middle school in Massachusetts. The Mary Faulkner Education Center reflects the importance of PPLM’s many educational programs and collaborations, from small neighborhood organizations to large universities, all focused on teaching young people about making informed choices.
In 1997, PPLM moved into a new facility on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, funded by numerous generous supporters including the Gambles. Five years later, with leadership from R. Lyman Wood, PPLM extended its services in western Massachusetts and purchased a Springfield practice in 1999 and moved into the current location on Main Street in 2002. In addition to providing abortion, contraception, counseling and gynecological care, PPLM’s medical services grew to include cervical cancer screening and sterilization.
Thanks to the work of many ardent advocates, especially former State Representative Paul Demakis, PPLM won a three-year battle over buffer zone legislation in 2000, legalizing an 18 foot zone of regulated conduct around the entrances and driveways of reproductive health clinics. In 2007, PPLM successfully lobbied for a new Buffer Zone Bill, extending the boundary inside which protesters are excluded to a fixed 35 feet. In 2003, PPLM helped end targeted residential picketing by abortion opponents in Brookline, home to several physicians providing these services. In 2006, the ordinance became permanent. These successes were some of the many that followed a new era of executive leadership that began in 1999.