SCOTUS ruling against MA’s abortion clinic buffer zones hinders women’s access to reproductive choice

An anti-choice protester harasses a woman and her clinic escorts as she crosses the yellow line into the clinic buffer zone. Photo credit: ThinkProgress
An anti-choice protester harasses a woman and her clinic escorts as she crosses the yellow line into the clinic buffer zone. Photo credit: ThinkProgress

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously today that Massachusetts’ abortion clinic buffer zone ruling is unconstitutional. In 2007, the state amended the state-wide Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act to make it illegal to congregate within 35 feet of the entrance of an abortion clinic, including on public sideways and roadways.

The amendment was implemented to directly address an oft-used tactic by the anti-choice Right: the harassing and abusive screeching and finger-wagging that seeks to shame women entering clinics for seeking an abortion (whether they are actually doing so or not).

The SCOTUS decision paints a euphemistic picture of this strategy, labeling it the righteous exercise of free speech. They call it “sidewalk counseling” and refer to two tactics they’ve now ruled as protected by the First Amendment: the right to close person-to-person contact between protester and patient, and the right to distribute literature.

This is a disingenuously charitable description of what these protesters actually do.

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