Federal Court Upholds MA Clinic “Buffer Zone”

On Wednesday, a federal appeals court upheld a Massachusetts law establishing a protest-free “buffer zone” around abortion clinics.

The 1st U.S. district Court of Appeals determined that a 2007 law establishing a 35-foot “buffer zone” around abortion clinic entrances, exits and driveways did not violate the First Amendment rights of anti-abortion protesters. Protesters claimed that the buffer zone prevents them from conversing with patients in a close proximity. The plaintiffs plan to appeal the court’s decision.

“The nation is sharply divided about the morality of the practice and its place in a caring society. But the right of the state to take reasonable steps to ensure the safe passage of persons wishing to enter health care facilities cannot seriously be questioned,” the court stated in its ruling. “The Massachusetts statute at issue here is a content-neutral, narrowly tailored time-place-manner regulation that protects the rights of prospective patients and clinic employees without offending the First Amendment rights of others.”

The 2007 law has been challenged in court repeatedly. An earlier version of the law was ruled constitutional in 2001 and 2004 by the same court. When the law was revised in 2007, it was appealed and upheld in 2009.


Boston Globe 1/9/2013; WBUR 1/9/2013

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