January 14, 2014 — Two New York Times editorials on Monday discussed the Supreme Court's involvement this week in abortion-related cases, including a challenge to a 20-week abortion ban in Arizona and a Massachusetts law that creates a protest-free buffer zone around abortion clinics. Summaries appear below.
~ Arizona abortion ban: "The Supreme Court made a good call, announced on Monday, not to review a 2013 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which struck down Arizona's 20-week abortion ban [HB 2036] as unconstitutional," a Times editorial states. The 9th Circuit's "decision was wholly consistent with 40 years of legal precedent -- established since Roe v. Wade in 1973 -- that prohibits states from banning abortions before a fetus can survive outside the womb, which occurs at about 24 weeks after fertilization," the editorial continues, noting that Arizona is one of 12 states that have passed similar bans based on the "faulty theory" that a fetus can feel pain around 20 weeks of development. However, the editorial notes that while the ruling "is undeniably welcome, it did not signal where the Supreme Court's current members are heading on reproductive rights or whether a majority of justices will protect women's childbearing decisions against an onslaught of harsh new state restrictions," including a Texas antiabortion-rights law (HB 2) law that they previously declined to block while a legal challenge continues in a lower court (New York Times, 1/13).
~ Massachusetts buffer zone law: The Supreme Court on Wednesday is scheduled to consider whether a Massachusetts law that creates a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinic entrances violates the free speech rights of protesters, a Times editorial states. The editorial continues, "While that is the legal question before the court, the broader issue at stake is protecting women's access to abortion, which is under assault around the country by lawmakers and protestors alike." According to the editorial, the contested "law is a prime example of a state's power to protect public safety" -- particularly given the "history of abortion protests in Massachusetts" -- and it falls well within the government's authority to "reasonably impose 'time, place, and manner' restrictions on speech, provided that they are neutral as to content and allow other channels of communication." The editorial urges the justices to "uphold this sensible law and allow women to make choices free from intimidation, harassment or worse" (New York Times, 1/13).