Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Friday, October 28, 2016

Washington (AFP) — Buffer zones around abortion clinics in the state of Massachusetts were deemed unconstitutional Thursday by the U.S. Supreme Court on grounds that they limit freedom of expression.

Massachusetts law requires protesters to stay at least 35 feet (10 meters) from the entrances to clinics that provide abortions and Thursday’s ruling could have implications for other U.S. states that have similar “buffer” legislation.

The high court ruled unanimously that the 2007 Massachusetts restriction “violates the First Amendment” of the U.S. Constitution, which ensures freedom of expression.

The law, the court said in a decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, “restricts access to ‘public way[s]’ and ‘sidewalk[s],’ places that have traditionally been open for speech activities.”

The decision acknowledged that “the buffer zones serve the commonwealth’s (Massachusetts’) legitimate interests in maintaining public safety on streets and sidewalks.”

But at the same time, it said, “they impose serious burdens on petitioners’ speech, depriving them of their two primary methods of communicating with arriving patients: close, personal conversations and distribution of literature.”

Seven anti-abortion advocates led by plaintiff Eleanor McCullen appealed the case to the Supreme Court.

Anti-abortion advocates have set up long-running protests outside many abortion clinics.

In some instances demonstrators have brandished pictures of aborted fetuses, handed out informational pamphlets, and suggested alternatives to abortions to women arriving at clinics.

In extreme cases, there have been violent attacks on staff and doctors.

Two doctors who provided abortions were killed in 1994 in Massachusetts.

AFP Photo / Saul Loeb

Interested in U.S. politics? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • Midway54

    Were these picketers labor union members at the public entrance to a plant and seeking through posters and close contact and leaflets to advise business invitees and delivery vehicle drivers about the strike in progress, this Court likely would have seen things differently notwithstanding first amendment considerations.

    • Sand_Cat

      I suspect First Amendment considerations had little or nothing to do with this decision, though no one involved will admit it.

      • Midway54

        You may be right but the Court had to use something to reach its holding.

  • Sand_Cat

    Surprise, surprise, surprise!
    Court upholds the right of violent religious zealots to threaten women seeking healthcare of any kind “up close and personal.”

  • Dan Bowman

    Worst SCOTUS ever. Scalia only reads Wash. TIMES and WSJ. Shameful.