Supreme Court Abortion Buffer Zone Ruling Being Felt

Image: Supreme Court Abortion Buffer Zone Ruling Being Felt

Thursday, 10 Jul 2014 10:37 AM

By Jennifer G. Hickey

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The ripple effect of the Supreme Court's June 26 ruling in McCullen v. Coakley is being felt well outside of Massachusetts as attorneys general decide whether or not to enforce similar laws creating abortion clinic "buffer zones," according to news media reports.

In its unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law establishing a 35-foot zone around the entrance and exit of abortion clinics holding that it violated an individual's constitutional right to engage in one-on-one advocacy and speech on public sidewalks, as well as to distribute pamphlets and other written materials.

New Hampshire has decided not to enforce a law creating a 25-foot buffer zone believing that plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit challenging the law will be victorious.

Like their lawsuit against Massachusetts, the Alliance for Defending Freedom have filed suit alleging the buffer zones constitute a violation of free speech, due process, and the equal protection clause because they only apply to areas outside of abortion clinics, thus criminalizing speech against abortion, Seacoastonline.com reported.

The cities of Burlington, Vermont, and Madison, Wisconsin, also have decided to delay enforcing separate laws establishing buffer zones until they are deemed constitutional, The Huffington Post reported.

On July 7, the city council of Portland, Maine voted to repeal a local ordinance creating an abortion clinic buffer zone akin to the Massachusetts law, The Associated Press reported.

While pro-life groups seek other opportunities to challenge the legality of such laws, pro-choice activists are assessing their options and the broader impact of the Supreme Court's decision on laws across the country.

Immediately after the June 26 decision, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement her organization was "taking a close look at this ruling, as well as patient protection laws around the country, to ensure that women can continue to make their own health care decisions without fear of harassment or intimidation."

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