Federal appeals court upholds Massachusetts abortion clinic buffer zone

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] on Wednesday upheld [opinion] a Massachusetts law that established "buffer zones" for abortion clinics. The buffer zone [Planned Parenthood backgrounder] creates a protected area outside of the abortion clinic where people are not allowed to protest. This is meant to ensure potential patients safe passage into the facilities. The law creates a 35-foot buffer zone on the driveways and entrances to the facilities. Judge Bruce Selya held in his opinion that, "The Massachusetts statute at issue here is a content-neutral, narrowly tailored time-place-manner regulation that protects the rights of prospective patients and clinic employees without offending the First Amendment rights of others." The challengers of the law have stated they plan on appealing the decision.

The First Circuit previously upheld the law [JURIST report] in 2009. Also that year the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] struck down a City of Pittsburgh ordinance that created a layered zone structure to prevent protesters from gathering outside abortion facilities. The ordinance created a "buffer zone," preventing protesters from coming within 15 feet of the entrance of a medical facility, and also a "bubble zone," which prevented protesters from coming closer than eight feet to individuals within a 100 foot radius around a facility. The court held that either of the zones created by the ordinance would be proper by themselves, but in combination they were not sufficiently narrowly tailored

 

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