Supreme Court Sides With Anti-Abortion Protesters In Free Speech Case

2fba17b208dfa403270f6a7067004c33Associated PressOn the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, anti-abortion protesters marched to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a Massachusetts law that imposes a 35-foot “buffer zone” around abortion clinics violates the First Amendment.

The unanimous decision overturned an appellate court decision that had upheld the Massachusetts law, which criminalized standing on a “public way or sidewalk” within 35 feet of a place where abortions are performed (except for hospitals).

The lead plaintiff in the case, Eleanor McCullen, argued that she wanted to have “friendly conversations” with women to tell them about alternatives to abortions, as The New York Times has reported.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the law blocked places that were traditionally open for free speech — public sidewalks. The government’s ability to limit speech in those places is “very limited,” the court found.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the state of Massachusetts went too far in trying to protect women seeking abortions.

“The buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achief the Commonwealth’s asserted interests,” Roberts wrote. Later, he added, “Petitioners wish to converse with their fellow citizens about an important subject on the public streets and sidewalks — sites that have hosted discussions about the issues of the day throughout history.”
The abortion protests ruling is relatively narrow. The Court makes clear that states can pass laws that specifically ensure access to clinics. It holds that states cannot more broadly prohibit speech on public streets and sidewalks. – See more at: http://live.scotusblog.com/Event/Live_blog_of_opinions__June_26_2014#sthash.f1kY19pU.dpuf
To be sure, though, the opinion does not bar states from passing laws to make sure women seeking abortions can get into the clinics that perform them.

“The abortion protests ruling is relatively narrow,” SCOTUSBlog’s Tom Goldstein explained. “The court make clear that states can pass laws that specifically ensure access to clinics. It holds that states cannot more broadly prohibit speech on public streets and sidewalks.”
The abortion protests ruling is relatively narrow. The Court makes clear that states can pass laws that specifically ensure access to clinics. It holds that states cannot more broadly prohibit speech on public streets and sidewalks. – See more at: http://live.scotusblog.com/Event/Live_blog_of_opinions__June_26_2014#sthash.f1kY19pU.dpuf
The abortion protests ruling is relatively narrow. The Court makes clear that states can pass laws that specifically ensure access to clinics. It holds that states cannot more broadly prohibit speech on public streets and sidewalks. – See more at: http://live.scotusblog.com/Event/Live_blog_of_opinions__June_26_2014#sthash.f1kY19pU.dpuf
The abortion protests ruling is relatively narrow. The Court makes clear that states can pass laws that specifically ensure access to clinics. It holds that states cannot more broadly prohibit speech on public streets and sidewalks. – See more at: http://live.scotusblog.com/Event/Live_blog_of_opinions__June_26_2014#sthash.f1kY19pU.dpuf

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