SCOTUS to hear case on constitutionality of Mass. 'buffer zone' law

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January 15, 2014, 6:10 am
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(NECN/NBC News: Tracie Potts) – Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a First Amendment case questioning whether it's unconstitutional to restrict protesters to "buffer zones" outside abortion clinics.

The plaintiffs argue it's not free speech if their speech is so far away it can't be heard.

Massachusetts set up a 35-foot buffer zone around Planned Parenthood clinics that offer abortions.

Supporters say it's about public safety. Two abortion clinic workers were killed in 1994.

President of NARAL Pro-Choice America Ilyse Hogue said, "We see a lot of protesters actually threatening intimidating doctors, women, administrative staff as they are trying to get in the building."

The “buffer zone,” they argue, is no different than restricting campaigning near places where people vote.

Hogue said, "It's not that their messages can't be seen and heard, but what it does do is protect the women and the administrative staff and doctors from that kind of in your face harassment that is really damaging."

But the Supreme Court will hear from plaintiffs who argue the law targets only one kind of speech , people who oppose abortion.

That, they say, is unconstitutional.

Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network said, "What Massachusetts is doing here is picking sides in one of the most divisive issues in our country today."

She added, "They are saying the abortion clinics reps are free to speak but the sidewalk counselors are not."

The court upheld a similar Colorado law 13 years ago. There’s also a law creating abortion protest zones in Montana.

Tags: protests, SCOTUS, Supreme Court, abortion, free speech , First Amendment, Planned Parenthood, Tracie Potts
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