Justices to Tackle Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone

     (CN) – A Massachusetts law creating a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics faces Supreme Court scrutiny after the justices agreed Monday to take up a challenge this fall.
     The law makes it a crime to “knowingly enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health care facility” within a 35-foot buffer zone. It also exempts clients and staff “acting within the scope of their employment.”
     After losing their facial challenge to the Massachusetts law in 2009, seven abortion protesters unsuccessfully challenged the law as applied to clinics in Boston, Worcester and Springfield.
     They argued that the law restricts the speech of “only those who wish to use public areas near abortion clinics to speak out about abortion from a different point of view.”
     But the 1st Circuit upheld the lower court’s dismissal of their case, saying states had the right “to take reasonable steps to ensure the safe passage of persons wishing to enter healthcare facilities.”
     In their petition to the high court, the protesters insisted that the law is unconstitutional and urged the justices to limit or overrule their 2000 decision in Hill v. Colorado, if that ruling permitted the enforcement of Massachusetts’ buffer zone.
     In Hill, the justices voted 6-3 to uphold a Colorado law making it illegal for protesters or counselors to approach within eight feet of anyone within 100 feet of a health-care facility.
     Because Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote one of the dissenting opinions in Hill, there’s some speculation that the Massachusetts protesters in McCullen v. Coakley will have a difficult time scraping together a five-justice majority.

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