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Buffer zones outside abortion chambers violate First Amendment, Supreme Court rules

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/26/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (

Justices unanimous that such a zone violates First Amendment rights of protestors

Erecting a 35-foot "buffer zone" around abortion clinics - where protestors would not be allowed to march, wave signs or offer counsel, has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The justices were unanimous in ruling that extending a buffer zone 35 feet from clinic entrances violates the First Amendment rights of protesters.

The justices were unanimous in ruling that extending a buffer zone 35 feet from clinic entrances violates the First Amendment rights of protesters.

The justices were unanimous in ruling that extending a buffer zone 35 feet from clinic entrances violates the First Amendment rights of protesters.


By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (
6/26/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Buffer zones, Supreme Court, abortion clinics

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Chief Justice John Roberts said that authorities have less intrusive ways to deal with problems outside the clinics. The high court unanimously struck down a 35-foot protest-free zone outside abortion clinics.

While the justices rules unanimously, Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the four liberal justices to strike down the buffer zone on narrow grounds. Justice Antonin Scalia in a separate opinion criticized Roberts' opinion for carrying forward "this court's practice of giving abortion-rights advocates a pass when it comes to suppressing the free-speech rights of their opponents."

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The issue began when Boston-area grandmother Eleanor McCullen and other abortion opponents sued over the limits on their activities at Planned Parenthood health centers in Boston, Springfield and Worcester.

At Springfield and Worcester, protesters complained that they had little chance of reaching patients arriving by car because they must stay 35 feet from the entrance to those buildings' parking lots.

The organization says that the buffer zone has significantly reduced the harassment of patients and clinic employees. Before the 35-foot zone went into effect in 2007, protesters could stand next to the entrances and force patients to squeeze by, Planned Parenthood said.

Before 2007, a floating buffer zone kept protesters from approaching unwilling listeners any closer than six feet if they were within 18 feet of the clinic. The floating zone was modeled after a Colorado law that the Supreme Court upheld, but that decision was not called into question in the ruling.

Abortion clinic employees said they are most concerned about safety because of past incidents of violence. A gunman killed two receptionists and wounded five employees and volunteers at a Planned Parenthood facility and another abortion clinic in nearby Brookline in 1994. The most recent killing was in 2009, when Dr. George Tiller, who performed abortions, was shot in a church in Wichita, Kansas.

Abortion protesters claim that other state and federal laws already protect health center workers and patients, as well as access to clinics.


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