The Supreme Court Just Made It Harder For Women To Exercise Their Right To Choose (Click here to read more)
By Tara Culp-Ressler June 26, 2014 at 10:30 am Updated: June 26, 2014 at 10:45 am
The Supreme Court unanimously struck down Massachusetts' abortion buffer zone law on Thursday, ruling in favor of anti-choice protesters who argued that being required to stay 35 feet away from clinic entrances is a violation of their freedom of speech. The decision rolls back a proactive policy intended to safeguard women's access to reproductive health care in the face of persistent harassment and intimidation from abortion opponents.
"By its very terms, the Act restricts access to 'public way[s]' and 'sidewalk[s],' places that have traditionally been open for speech activities and that the Court has accordingly labeled 'traditional public fora,' " the opinion states. "The buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth's asserted interests."
Reproductive rights advocates had been hoping the justices would uphold the policy, which they say has gone a long way to ensure that woman can safely enter abortion clinics. More than 30 pro-choice organizations filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to rule in favor of Massachusetts' buffer zone, which was approved in response to a mass shooting at several of the state's abortion clinics.
Buffer zones are not entirely unusual policies. There are already buffer zones around funerals and polling places. Ironically, the Supreme Court itself has a large buffer zone around it to prevent protesters from picketing on its 252-by-98-foot plaza, requiring demonstrations to take place on the sidewalk.