High court voids 35-foot abortion clinic buffer
WASHINGTON - Abortion rights advocates are criticizing today's ruling from the Supreme Court, saying it will put at risk the safety of women seeking abortions.
The court struck down a 35-foot zone in which protests are prohibited outside abortion clinics in Massachusetts, finding that it violates the First Amendment rights of protesters.
Cecile Richards, who heads Planned Parenthood Federation of America, says the decision "shows a troubling level of disregard for American women." She says they should be able to make their own medical decisions without "running a gantlet of harassing and threatening protesters."
But an attorney who represented the anti-abortion protesters said the ruling "confirms that the First Amendment is for everyone." Mark Rienzi says, "The government cannot reserve its public sidewalks for Planned Parenthood, as if their message is the only one women should be allowed to hear."
Even though the ruling was a unanimous one, the court's four liberal justices -- joined by Chief Justice John Roberts -- rejected the no-protest zones on narrower grounds than the other justices used. And that prompted Justice Antonin Scalia to complain that state and local governments will still have a lot of leeway in limiting abortion protests. He wrote that the court is "giving abortion-rights advocates a pass when it comes to suppressing the free-speech rights of their opponents."