The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously struck down a "buffer zone" law in Massachusetts which restricted where the pro-life advocates could counsel women outside of abortion mills. The Court ruled that the Massachusetts law violates the First Amendment.
The briefs demonstrated that the Massachusetts law violated the First Amendment rights of 40 Days for Life by establishing a 35-foot “no-pro-life” speech zone outside abortion facilities where no alternatives to abortion could be offered. AUL attorneys argued that the unconstitutional law impermissibly forced pro-life speakers to either “shout or be silent” and effectively prohibited speech by those who engage in personal, direct, and peaceful counseling with women considering abortion.
Importantly, the 2007 law discriminated against peaceful pro-life activists by prohibiting them from “enter[ing] or remain[ing] on a public way or sidewalk adjacent” to a stand-alone abortion facility. But this did not
applyequally to everyone. Abortion clinic employeesor agents acting within their scopeof employmentwere free to enter the “zone” and speak with women including encouraging them to have abortions.
This discriminatory “no-enter zone” only targeted those opposed to abortion and permitted police to arrest and charge any person engaged in pro-life advocacy. Prohibited conduct under the law included speaking, praying, wearing t-shirts, hats, or buttons, displaying signs, leafleting, and making consented approaches with women or others entering the abortion clinic.
The law effectively sought to prohibit all methods of communicating a pro-life message on public sidewalks—a venue which the Supreme Court has called “a prototypical public forum” where the First Amendment is “at its most protected.”
Thank you Supreme Court for upholding pro-lifers right to free speech.