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Massachusetts Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones Ruled Illegal

 
 
Miller
 
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2014 01:36 am

Mass. abortion clinic buffer zones ruled illegal
By Peter Schworm and Zachary T. Sampson
| Globe staff | Globe Correspondent June 26, 2014

The US Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law that banned protesters within 35 feet of abortion clinics, ruling that the law infringed upon the First Amendment rights of antiabortion activists.

The decision effectively overturns about 10 fixed-buffer-zone laws across the country, from San Francisco to Portland, Maine, but offers a framework for more limited restrictions around clinic demonstrations, legal experts said.

“They’ve approved the idea of this kind of law, just not the mechanism,” said Jessica Silbey, a Suffolk University Law School professor. “It was too broad.”

State lawmakers said they would act quickly to pass legislation to provide protections for women seeking abortions and counseling. It was unclear what form the legislation would take.

The high court ruled that the state law, enacted in 2007, imposed “serious burdens” on protesters who wish to speak with arriving patients.

“At each of the three Planned Parenthood clinics where petitioners attempt to counsel patients, the zones carve out a significant portion of the adjacent public sidewalks, pushing petitioners well back from the clinics’ entrances and driveways,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

The law broadened a previously enacted floating buffer zone, which kept protesters 6 feet away from anyone who was within 18 feet of a clinic.

It was passed in response to the fatal shootings of two staff members at abortion clinics in Brookline in 1994.

Abortion opponents hailed the ruling as restoring their rights to free speech.

“The court recognized our First Amendment rights, and now I’ll have a chance to speak to people one-on-one,” said Eleanor McCullen, the lead petitioner in the case.

But the decision left supporters — who said the ruling overturned an effective measure that allowed patients and staff members to enter clinics without being harassed — vowing to find ways to keep the facilities safe.

Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose office defended the law in arguments before the court, said the decision left intact part of the law banning deliberate obstruction of clinic entrances.

“We will utilize all of the tools we have available to protect everyone from harassment, threats, and physical obstruction,” said Coakley, adding that her office’s Civil Rights Division was prepared to issue injunctions against “those who would threaten or harass.”

Martha Walz — president of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, which has health centers in Boston, Springfield, and Worcester that provide abortion services — said police officers had assured her they will enforce laws protecting clinics. Volunteers will also be available to escort patients and staff if necessary, she said.

“We will exhaust all options to protect the safety of patients,” Walz said.

Walz, a former state legislator and one of the lead sponsors of the 2007 measure, said the law transformed the sidewalks outside clinics into “a safe, peaceful environment.”

“The law worked,” she said.

Before, protesters could stand in the clinic doorway, shoulder to shoulder, forcing people to squeeze through. Walz recalled a visit when a protester screamed at her from just inches away.

“It was, to say the least, frightening,” Walz said. “That is what is of such concern to us. The court is essentially saying that kind of behavior may resume.”

McCullen, a Newton grandmother and the lead petitioner in the case, said she was thrilled by the unanimous ruling.

“It restores your faith in the country,” said McCullen, 77.

McCullen said the buffer zone has made it difficult for her to speak with people entering a clinic in Boston. She stands outside the clinic twice a week.

McCullen said that many visitors to the clinic are hesitant and that she and others have persuaded hundreds of women to forgo abortions.

“This is life and death,” she said. “This is about a little child.”
Ray Neary stood behind the yellow line as he protested outside of a Planned Parenthood on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

BostonGlobe.com

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Type: Discussion • Score: 5 • Views: 1,430 • Replies: 9

 
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2014 01:49 am
@Miller,
The only women who go to these abortion clinics are those, who do not have the money/insurance to have these services performed by a private GYN physician.

In essence, this law as it now stands, discriminates against poor women, while allowing upper middle and upper class women to obtain an abortion without being physically or verbally abused.

The protestors with their abortion signs always stand in front of abortion clinics that treat the poor. They rarely, if ever, picket the offices of MDs with a private GYN practice, who serve patients who have excellent insurance and a great deal of private wealth.

The polarity between the rich and the poor continues.
bobsal u1553115
 
  3  
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2014 06:42 am
@Miller,
Access to abortion has always been an issue about class. Roe vs Wade was about equal access.

Getting rid of the corridor will get someone killed.
0 Replies
 
Butrflynet
 
  2  
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2014 08:29 am
@Miller,
They need Mohammed Ali to be their body guard.


Seriously, after this decision, can't wait for the next attempts to corral protestors into free speech zones at future political events.
bobsal u1553115
 
  2  
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2014 09:37 am
@Butrflynet,
Quote:
Seriously, after this decision, can't wait for the next attempts to corral protestors into free speech zones at future political events.


Very good point. Seriously, what a very good point.
Miller
 
  2  
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2014 09:44 am
@bobsal u1553115,
Yes, a very good point.

The next attack point may well be the subject of "free speech on the internet".
0 Replies
 
Foofie
 
  1  
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2014 11:32 am
@Miller,
Miller wrote:

In essence, this law as it now stands, discriminates against poor women, while allowing upper middle and upper class women to obtain an abortion without being physically or verbally abused.



You might have it backwards. In effect, society might value the unborn child of a poor woman more.
InfraBlue
 
  2  
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2014 12:20 pm
@Foofie,
Foofie wrote:

Miller wrote:

In essence, this law as it now stands, discriminates against poor women, while allowing upper middle and upper class women to obtain an abortion without being physically or verbally abused.



You might have it backwards. In effect, society might value the unborn child of a poor woman more.

In light of the very reason for Roe v. Wade, no.
0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  2  
Reply Tue 1 Jul, 2014 08:32 pm
@Butrflynet,
Quote:
Seriously, after this decision, can't wait for the next attempts to corral protestors into free speech zones at future political events.


The very first thought that came to my mind. Why do they prevent 1st amendment folks from talking to KKK or their own prez?
0 Replies
 
bobsal u1553115
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jul, 2014 03:35 pm
@Foofie,
If so, passively and unintendedly. Then again, they seem so intent on increasing the number poor children.
0 Replies
 
 

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