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Court declines Mass. buffer zone appeal

WASHINGTON (BP)–Sidewalk counselors will have to remain at least 35 feet from abortion clinics in Massachusetts after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider a challenge to the state’s restriction on such pro-life activity.

The high court, without comment, has declined to review a decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a 2007 law that barred abortion opponents from discussing abortion with women inside 35 feet of clinic entrances. The appeals court ruled last year the law did not violate pro-lifers’ free speech rights, according to the Associated Press.

“The government cannot single them [prolife-life advocates] out for punishment simply because they want to share their message with people entering the clinic,” said Michael DePrimo, a lawyer affiliated with the Alliance Defense Fund, when the First Circuit Court heard the appeal. “The government simply cannot create censorship zones where the First Amendment does not apply in order to silence a particular viewpoint.”

The Massachusetts state representative who sponsored the bill in 2007, however, said after the Supreme Court’s March 22 announcement that the buffer zone statute is “one of my proudest legislative achievements.”

Rep. Carl Sciortino of Medford, Mass., told the Medford Transcript daily newspaper, “This law allows protestors to exercise their right to free speech while ensuring individuals accessing health care can do so free from in-your-face intimidation and harassment.”

In a report on FOX News, Supreme Court reporter Scott Ross noted, “Anyone who violates the 2007 law is subject to a small fine and up to three months in jail but the law’s opponents contend there was no need for the Massachusetts legislature to act. They say there is no record of anyone in Massachusetts who was prosecuted under a previous state law imposing a six-foot perimeter.”
Compiled by Baptist Press staff.

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