August 25, 2011 — A group of abortion-rights opponents is asking a federal judge to strike down a Massachusetts law that ensures a protest-free zone around the entrances of abortion clinics, arguing that the law violates their constitutional right to free speech, the Boston Globe reports. The group argues that buffer zones outside of Planned Parenthood facilities in Boston, Worcester and Springfield restrict protesters from conveying their message. U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro said he would take the case under advisement after lawyers submit more documents.
A 2007 state law established the 35-foot buffer zone between abortion clinic entrances and protesters. Courts have upheld the constitutionality of the law. However, Michael DePrimo, the protesters' lawyer, argued that when the law is applied in real situations, it pushes protesters farther than 35 feet away because of the configuration of buildings, parking lots and streets.
Tricia Wajda of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts called the buffer zone "an important public safety measure that protects the privacy, dignity and safety of patients and staff." She added that organization officials are "very hopeful that the law will remain intact and women, their families and staff will continue to have the protection they need to have safe and harassment-free access into our health centers."
Kenneth Salinger, an assistant state attorney general, said the buffer zones do not prevent protesters from conducting demonstrations and attempting to convey their message to people seeking abortion care. He said the lawsuit is a reflection of protesters' frustration that most people do not want to listen to their message. He also noted that by their own admission, the protesters have had success in connecting with people entering the clinics (Valencia, Boston Globe, 8/25).