January 11, 2013 — A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a Massachusetts law that prohibits protests within 35 feet of abortion clinic entrances and driveways, the Boston Globe's "MetroDesk" reports (Finucane, "Metro Desk," Boston Globe, 1/9).
The law, enacted in 2007, only permits people to enter the 35-foot zone to enter or leave a clinic or to reach a destination other than the clinic.
Last February, U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro rejected claims by antiabortion-rights protesters that the law violated their freedom of speech. He said the law provided protesters "ample alternative means of communication" with minimal restrictions. In August 2008, he also ruled to uphold the constitutionality of the law itself (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/24/12).
Details of Wednesday's Ruling
A three-judge panel for the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Tauro's decision. "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," the court's opinion stated.
Plaintiffs' attorney Mark Rienzi said they hope to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D), whose office defended the law, said in a statement, "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" ("Metro Desk," Boston Globe, 1/9).
Repro Health Watch — an exciting new edition of the Women’s Health Policy Report — compiles and distributes media coverage of proposed and enacted state laws and ballot initiatives affecting women's access to comprehensive reproductive health care, as well as litigation in response to those provisions.