July 14, 2014 — New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) last week clarified that the state's "buffer zone" protections remain intact, despite the Supreme Court's decision to strike down a similar law in Massachusetts, the Mineola Patch reports (Branch, Mineola Patch, 7/11).
Last month, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a Massachusetts buffer zone law prohibiting protests within 35 feet of abortion clinics violates the First Amendment's right to free speech (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/26). The decision has prompted officials in some areas to stop enforcing their buffer zone laws, the Albany Times Union reports.
Twenty-two counties in New York have buffer zones laws, while New York City enforces a 15-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, according to the Times Union.
In a memorandum to law enforcement agencies, Schneiderman said his office has received reports of antiabortion-rights groups "suggesting to [abortion] service providers that the Supreme Court invalidated all buffer zones and other protections. That is not true." He added that the court "also affirmed that states may protect their strong interest in ensuring that citizens have full and safe access to reproductive health services" (Seiler, Albany Times Union, 7/10).
Schneiderman also said he is "committed to working with our partners in law enforcement to ensure [the state's laws] are fully enforced" (Mineola Patch, 7/11).
Tracey Brooks of Planned Parenthood Advocates of New York State said Schneiderman's statement "should send a clear message to those extremists willing to intimidate patients and staff at health centers" (Albany Times Union, 7/10).