Court: Too-Wide Buffer Zones Violate Freedom of Speech

WASHINGTON—By a 9-0 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a  Massachu-setts law that erected a 35-foot “buffer zone” around clinics where abortions are performed.  The court said the buffer zones, which the state established to prevent harassment and intimidation of women by pro-life campaigners, violate freedom of speech.

Unions did not comment on the June 26 ruling, but the AFL-CIO had sided with the pro-lifers.  It had argued the state law was so broad it would restrict peaceful, legal picketing, too.  .

The Massachusetts law would prevent union organizers from communicating with workers “in any manner” near the clinic, the fed said then in its friend-of-the-court brief.  Unionists could not give workers leaflets, or talk to them, and the workers could not respond, within the buffer zone, the brief added.

It also said the 2007 Massachusetts law could impact freedom of speech for pickets elsewhere.  That’s because the law did not restrict the buffer zones.  “Public ways and sidewalks are held in trust for use of the public.  Regulations for the time, place and manner of expression” on those streets and sidewalks “must be narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest” and must provide alternatives, the fed had said.