Supreme Court rejects abortion clinic buffer zone in nuanced ruling
The Supreme Court gave both sides in the abortion wars a partial victory Thursday in setting rules for protests at health clinics, deciding that laws may forbid people from obstructing the entrance as long as demonstrators are free to speak on the sidewalk.
The justices unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law that set a 35-foot buffer zone on the sidewalks near abortion facilities. The court said this no-standing, no-talking zone violated the 1st Amendment.
But Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., joined by the court’s four liberal justices, said states and cities retain ample power to protect medical clinics and their patients. He cited with approval laws that forbid “obstructing access” to a medical clinic or harassing people within 15 feet of an abortion clinic.
Roberts said states and cities have “undeniably significant interests in maintaining public safety ... as well as in preserving access to adjacent healthcare facilities.” He said Massachusetts had gone too far by taking “the extreme step of closing a substantial portion of a traditional public forum to all speakers. It has done so without seriously addressing the problem through alternatives” that would have allowed continued protests on the sidewalks, he said.
Four more conservative justices, led by Antonin Scalia, said they would have gone further and declared all buffer zones unconstitutional if they prohibit “abortion-opposing speech on public streets and sidewalks.”
Like I said, someone explain to me how Free Speech Zones still exist then.