The US 1st Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Massachusetts law on Friday, allowing a 35-foot safety buffer zone between protestors and abortion clinic entrances. The law, established in 2007, protects clinic patients and staff from harassment.
Five anti-choice protesters originally filed the lawsuit on the grounds that the safety zones violate their right to free speech. In 2008, US District Judge Joseph Tauro rejected their request and they filed the most recent appeal.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled that the law does not infringe on protestors’ free speech rights and applies to all protestors no matter their viewpoint. The law is described as “content-neutral,” reported the Boston Globe. The ruling also stated that the law “represents a permissible response by the Massachusetts Legislature to what it reasonably perceived as a significant threat to public safety.”
“For too long, patients and staff had to endure in-your-face screaming and harassment just to get to doctor’s appointments,” Angus McQuilken, vice president of public affairs for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, told the Boston Globe in 2008 after the original suit was filed. “This 35-foot zone is more than reasonable.”