Supreme Court Declares Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone Unconstitutional

The law creating a 35-feet buffer zone to keep protesters from reaching abortion clinic patients in Massachusetts was struck down by the Supreme Court Thursday. 

Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick drew the 35-feet line for buffer zones in 2007 as a safety measure to protect women from “harassment or unwanted attention” while entering an abortion clinic.

When the law was passed in 2007, Patrick issued a statement in support of the bill: “Women in the Commonwealth have the right to medical care free of violence, harassment, or intimidation. The Senate’s decision to widen the buffer zone around reproductive clinics will protect patients from the abuse that so many have encountered as they seek care.”

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Now, the court is saying that the state must find other ways to protect patients, as the current 35-feet buffer zone was unconstitutional. The court reached this decision unanimously using the principles of the First Amendment, which outlines the freedom of speech. 

The opinion, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, stated: “In short, given the vital First Amendment interests at stake, it is not enough for Massachusetts simply to say that other approaches have not worked.”