Sciortino Awaits Decision on Buffer Zone Law

Carl SciortinoRepresentative Carl Sciortino (D – Medford/Somerville) awaits tomorrow’s oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the constitutionality of the Massachusetts buffer zone law, which he and former State Representative and current President and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, Marty Walz, co-authored when it was a bill in the Massachusetts legislature.

“I am proud of the Buffer Zone Law I co-authored, which balances free speech and a woman’s right to access reproductive health care,” said Representative Sciortino. “It is my sincere hope that the Court will uphold its past precedent and uphold the right of women to see a doctor without interference in getting through the door.”

The Court, in McCullen vs. Coakley, will decide whether or not the Commonwealth’s 2007 law blocking protests within 35 feet of an abortion clinic unconstitutionally restricts free speech. The law was a response to protests and violence at abortion clinics, including a fatal shooting of two clinic employees in 1994. Prior to the 2007 law, Massachusetts allowed for an 18 foot zone that proved to be unenforceable, doing nothing to protect the safety of staff, patients, and family members entering health clinics that provide family planning services. Until the change, protesters were allowed to occupy the 18 foot zone and at a distance of six feet from another person within the zone, but they were also allowed to be within the 6 foot “bubble” if they had a patient’s or staff person’s consent. The new law states that no one who does not have business with the clinic can enter and remain in the 35 foot zone without moving from one point to another. A U.S. District Court and the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Massachusetts law, finding that it addressed a legitimate public safety interest and was narrowly tailored, content-neutral and left open other means of communications – the legal standards required for a restriction on the time, place or manner of speech.

– Submitted by Rep. Sciortino’s office

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