SCOTUS Passes On Mass. Abortion Clinic CaseMarch 22, 2010 - 10:23 AM | by: Lee Ross
WASHINGTON — A Massachusetts law mandating a 35 foot “no speech zone” around abortion clinics will not be given further review by the Supreme Court the justices announced Monday.
The law was upheld by a lower court last year. Opponents contend the law improperly carves out an exception to First Amendment protections. “The statute makes it a crime to stand on the public sidewalk and display signs, distribute leaflets, pray in silence, or converse with willing listeners, even when there are no incoming patients in or near the zone,” lawyers for five Massachusetts residents wrote to the high court asking the justices to take the case.
Anyone who violates the 2007 law is subject to a small fine and up to three months in jail but the law’s opponents law contend there was no need for the Massachusetts legislature to act. They say there is no record of anyone in Massachusetts who was prosecuted under a previous state law imposing a six foot perimeter. These opponents also object to the language of the statute that makes it specific to abortion clinics rather than all health facilities and the exemptions given to people who have business in the clinics.
In asking the justices to keep out of the case and effectively uphold the law, Massachusetts officials argued the new legislation is necessary to protect public safety and to ensure people have access to abortion clinics.