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Federal Court of Appeals Upholds Massachusetts Bubble Law

A unanimous three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a preliminary challenge by anti-abortion protestors to a Massachusetts law that protects patients’ access to abortion clinics. The Court determined that the anti-abortion protesters failed to show that they would succeed on the merits of their claim that the law violated their First Amendment rights. The case is McGuire v. Reilly, No. 00-2492 (1st Circuit, August 13, 2000).

The Massachusetts law prohibits knowingly approaching within 6 feet of a person or motor vehicle in order to pass a leaflet or handbill, display a sign, or engage in oral protest or counseling within 18 feet of the entrance or driveway of a free standing clinic that provides abortions. The law exempts clinic staff, escorts and police officers from this prohibition and requires the clinic to mark the 18-foot boundary. The approach prohibition is only in effect during the hours that the clinic is open for business.

The Massachusetts law is similar to the Colorado law approved by the Supreme Court in Hill v. Colorado. The Colorado law requires an 8-foot bubble that starts 100 feet from the entrance or driveway and covers all hospitals and clinics. The Colorado law does not include an exemption for clinic workers and escorts.

Sources:

Associated press - August 14, 2001

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