Supreme Court unanimously rejects abortion clinic buffer zones

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down a Massachusetts state law that imposed a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, in which protestors and pro-life counselors could not enter to speak with patients.
The state’s brief on the case argued that the law was “justified solely by legitimate government interests in public safety and health care access.”
However, pro-life challengers to the law said that it infringed upon their constitutionally-protected First Amendment right to the freedom of speech. They argued in a legal brief that the law “indiscriminately criminalizes even peaceful, consensual, non-obstructive conversation and leafleting” and that it unfairly targeted certain kinds of speech, namely, pro-life counseling and views.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld the buffer law in January 2013, ruling that the First Amendment does not guarantee an audience “available at close range,” and arguing that pro-life counselors still have access to women seeking abortions, even with the 35-foot buffer zone in place.
The Supreme Court overturned the appellate court’s ruling in a rare unanimous vote, saying that the law restricted speech on public streets and sidewalks.

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