Federal Appeals Court Upholds Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone Law
The case could go before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Abortion clinics such as Four Women Health Services in Attleboro can continue to require protesters to stay behind a 35-foot buffer zone around entrances, exits and driveways. A federal appellate court on Wednesday upheld a February 2012 decision by U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro that Massachusetts' 2007 law creating the buffer zones is legal.
The 1st Circuit Court of Appeals determined the state has the right to take "reasonable steps" to ensure the safety of people trying to enter abortion clinics.
"The Massachusetts statute at issue here is a content-neutral, narrowly tailored time-place-manner regulation that protects the rights of prospective patients and clinic employees without offending the First Amendment rights of others," wrote Judge Bruce M. Selya.
[Go here to read the decision]
This is the second time the law has been challenged by a group of abortion opponents. Judge Tauro ruled against the opponents in 2008, and the appellate court also upheld that decision. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. The lawyer representing the abortion opponents in the current case said the Supreme Court would be petitioned again.
"The same rules have to apply to all speakers," he said in a statement released to the media. "The government cannot put peaceful pro-life speakers in jail, but give Planned Parenthood free rein on the same sidewalk."
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's office released a statement praising the ruling.
"We have always believed, and the court agreed, that the buffer zone leaves open the opportunity for civil engagement on public areas around these facilities while ensuring that patients and health care providers can safely access these facilities," a press release from Coakley's office states.
Attleboro is no stranger to abortion protests. Opponents can frequently be seen near Four Women Health Services on Emory Street.