High Court Strikes Down Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court handed a victory to pro-lifers Thursday, unanimously striking down a 2007 Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot protest-free zone outside abortion clinics in Massachusetts.
 
Abortion advocates say that the absence of a buffer zone will endanger women and abortion clinic workers. 

But the justices said the law's main effect was to keep pro-life counselors from exercising their First Amendment right to talk about abortion.

Jordan Sekulow, executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice, talked about the implications of Thursday's ruling on Newswatch, June 26.

Religious liberties lawyer Casey Mattox of the Alliance Defending Freedom agreed, saying the reality doesn't match up with abortion advocates' visions of violent, harassing pro-life protesters.

"What is in fact the case outside most abortion clinics these days are people who are simply peacefully trying to provide information and pray outside abortion clinics," Mattox said.

Many of these sidewalk counselors are students. Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life, calls this a big victory for them and the young women they're counseling.

"These young people see turn-arounds every time they go in front of the abortion facility because they're the same age as the girl walking in," Hawkins explained. 

"And so she looks at them and says 'Why are you out here?  Why are you giving up your Saturday to be here to help me?'  And it causes her to think 'Maybe there's something wrong with what I'm about to do,'" she said.

The high court said not only did Massachusetts' bubble zones violate the rights of pro-life sidewalk counselors, but also the women who might have heard a pro-life message from them and be given a last-minute chance to re-consider getting an abortion.

As Arina Grossu of the Family Research Council put it, "This is a  defense of free speech, a defense of religious liberty, and really a defense of women's informed consent, so that they have a right to know what abortion is about."

Penny Nance, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, told CBN News that Americans should stop trying to restrict their opponents' right to speak.

"You know, even if you don't like the point of view, in this country we get to express it," she said.

Rev. Rob Schenck of Faith and Action, who was in the courtroom when the high court announced its ruling, said Chief Justice John Roberts specifically took on  abortion advocates' characterization of pro-lifers outside  clinics.

"The other side tries to disparage these good people and make them out to be crazed maniacs that are violent and threatening," he said. "And in fact the Supreme Court of the United States said nothing could be more false or less true."

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.