Monday, July 13, 2009

Appeals Court Upholds Protest-Free Zones

The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a 2007 Massachusetts law, which sets a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinic entrances, does not infringe upon protestors’ First Amendment rights. The ruling concludes that moving the protests to ensure the safety of clinic employees and patients does not impede on free speech. The provision was originally created as a response to several violent attacks by protestors outside state abortion clinics.

The buffer zone law limits those permitted to walk near the entrance of an abortion clinic to employees, patients, state officials, and pedestrians. Though the Alliance Defense Fund, which defended the plaintiffs in court, argued that the law specifically targets and censors anti-choice activists, the Court asserted that the law applies to protesters of both persuasions and that the legislation was in the best interest of public safety.

It’s ironic that these anti-choice protestors have the audacity to claim their own rights were being infringed upon, when the very goal of their antics is to limit a woman’s right to reproductive health care. No part of the legislation denies protestors their right to free speech or punishes them – it simply requires them to express their views in a manner which preserves the security of clinics and does not hinder access to the services they provide.

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