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In 9-0 decision, Supreme Court overturns Massachusetts abortion clinic buffers

On Thursday, the Supreme Court announced in a 9-0 decision (McCullen v. Coakley) that the Massachusetts law establishing a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics violated the First Amendment.

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 26: Pro-life activists gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court June 26, 2014 in Washington, DC. The court overturned today a Massachusetts law barring protests within 35 feet of abortion clinics.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

According to The Washington Post, "Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts concludes that the statute was content-neutral, and thus avoids strict scrutiny, but is not narrowly tailored because it burdens more speech than is necessary to advance the government’s interests in ensuring clinic access and public safety."

The opinion states, "“It is no accident that public streets and sidewalks have developed as venues for the exchange of ideas...Even today, they remain one of the few places where a speaker can be confident that he is not simply preaching to the choir…. In light of the First Amendment’s purpose ‘to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail…,’ this aspect of traditional public fora is a virtue, not a vice.” [Alliance Defending Freedom]

Dr. Charmaine Yoest, President and CEO of Americans United for Life said, “In a brazen affront to the First Amendment, Massachusetts government officials had sought to use the threat of arrest and criminal conviction to silence those offering women life-affirming alternatives to abortion. The Supreme Court rightly rejected this unlawful attempt to deny pro-life Americans their First Amendment rights.”

Some advocates believe that this decision will soon affect similar laws in other states. Roger Evans, senior counsel at Planned Parenthood for America said "If you were a betting man, you would bet that they would all go." [MSNBC]

The decision in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby, where the justices consider if for-profit corporations can refuse to provide contraceptives as mandated by Obamacare is expected on Monday.

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