The Supreme Court Will Consider a Mass. Abortion Buffer Zone Law

The law creates a 35 foot space around abortion clinics beyond which protestors can’t pass.

The Supreme Court agreed today to consider a 2007 Massachusetts law requiring protestors to observe a 35 foot buffer zone around clinics that provide abortion services. The Massachusetts law creates a 35 foot buffer zone around the entrances, exits, and driveways of abortion clinics beyond which people can’t go unless they plan to enter the clinic or pass on to another destination. In the case of Eleanor McCullen et al v. Martha Coakley et al, the plaintiffs, abortion opponents who regularly protest and try to engage patients at clinics in Boston, Worcester and Springfield said the law unfairly restricted their rights.

A January ruling [PDF] from the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals was the most recent to disagree. In a written decision, Judge Bruce M. Selya wrote:

Few subjects have proven more controversial in modern times than the issue of abortion. The nation is sharply divided about the morality of the practice and its place in a caring society. But the right of the state to take reasonable steps to ensure the safe passage of persons wishing to enter healthcare facilities cannot seriously be questioned. The Massachusetts statute at issue here is a content-neutral, narrowly tailored time-place-manner regulation that protects the rights of prospective patients and clinic employees without offending the First Amendment rights of others. We therefore affirm the judgment …

The Supreme Court will have to decide whether it agrees.