WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law creating a 35-foot buffer zone outside abortion clinics in the state. The Supreme Court’s ruling reverses a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upholding the buffer zone. Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, had the following reaction to the ruling:
“This is a hard case and the majority opinion reflects the difficulty and importance of balancing two constitutional rights: the right of women to enter and leave abortion clinics free from the harassment, intimidation, and violence they have too often suffered in the past; and the right of peaceful protestors to express their opposition to abortion on the public streets outside abortion clinics.
We agree that a fixed buffer zone imposes serious First Amendment costs, but we also think the Court underestimated the proven difficulty of protecting the constitutional rights of women seeking abortions by enforcing other laws – especially regarding harassment – outside abortion clinics.
Today’s opinion makes it more important than ever that the police enforce the laws that do exist in order to ensure that women and staff can safely enter and leave abortion clinics.”