Court Strikes Down Abortion Clinic ‘Buffer Zones’


The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a Massachusetts law that barred protests near abortion clinics, reports the New York Times. The law, enacted in 2007, created 35-foot buffer zones around entrances to abortion clinics. State officials said the law was a response to a history of harassment and violence at abortion clinics in Massachusetts, including a shooting rampage at two facilities in 1994.

The law was challenged on First Amendment grounds by opponents of abortion who said they sought to have quiet conversations with women entering clinics to tell them about alternatives to abortion. In testimony before a legislative committee in 2007, Capt. William B. Evans, now Boston's police commissioner, said the floating-bubble approach made his officers' job impossible. “I like to make the reference of a basketball referee down there, where we're watching feet, we're watching hands,” he said. The 2007 law at issue in the case, McCullen v. Coakley, No. 12-1168, did away with floating bubbles and bars everyone from entering or staying in fixed buffer zones around entrances to reproductive health care facilities.

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