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.ThinkProgress reports that “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.
“According to the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which closely tracks threats and violence against abortion providers across the country, buffer zones have had a measurable impact in the areas where they’re in place. A recent survey conducted among NAF’s member organizations found that 51 percent of facilities in areas with buffer zones reported a decrease in criminal facility after the policy was enacted, and 75 percent of them said it helped improve patients’ and staff members’ ability to access the clinic. Continue reading “Anti-choice wins in court”