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High court turns down buffer-zone case

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court today declined to consider the constitutionality of state laws that regulate speech and activities within a buffer zone around abortion clinics.

Without comment, justices let stand a lower court ruling upholding a Massachusetts law that was passed after the 1994 fatal shooting of two abortion clinic workers. Anti-abortion protesters say the state-mandated zones have unfairly become a place where only abortion-rights rhetoric can be uttered.

The law, which creates a six-foot buffer zone around patients within an 18-foot radius of a clinic entrance, prohibits anyone from approaching without their consent for the purpose of passing out leaflets or “engaging in oral protest, education or counseling.”

The law created an exemption for clinic workers so long as they’re “acting within the scope of their employment.”

State lawmakers began pushing for a buffer zone after John Salvi walked into two Boston-area clinics and opened fire, killing two receptionists and wounding five others. He killed himself in prison in 1996.

Massachusetts Citizens for Life, an anti-abortion group, had argued the law denies protection to women and their unborn children. Women considering whether to have abortions benefit by having information distributed to them outside clinics, the group said.

The case is McGuire v. Reilly, 04-939.

1st Circuit rejects abortion foes' 2nd challenge to buffer zones
Protesters claim that zone around clinic entrances has unfairly become place where only abortion-rights rhetoric can be uttered. 10.15.04


Abortion foes challenge buffer zone around Fla. clinic

Attorney says law is broader than others that have been upheld because it bars demonstrators from approaching 'both willing and unwilling listeners.' 10.24.05

Mass. lawmakers want wider buffer zones at abortion clinics
Supporters say existing law too vague to enforce; anti-abortion activists say broader no-protest zone restricts rights. 01.01.06

Abortion-clinic buffer zone too strict, federal judge rules
Court: West Palm Beach, Fla., city ordinance requiring protesters to obey 20-foot buffer zone violates free-speech rights. 04.18.06

Abortion protests & buffer zones

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