Court Rules Buffer Zone is Unconstitutional
The justices were unanimous Thursday that extending a buffer zone 35 feet from clinic entrances violates the First Amendment rights of protesters.
Chief Justice John Roberts says authorities have less intrusive ways to deal with problems outside the clinics.
Abortion rights advocates are criticizing today's ruling , saying it will put at risk the safety of women seeking abortions.
.Cecile Richards, who heads Planned Parenthood Federation of America, says the decision "shows a troubling level of disregard for American women." She says they should be able to make their own medical decisions without "running a gantlet of harassing and threatening protesters."
But an attorney who represented the pro-life protesters said the ruling "confirms that the First Amendment is for everyone." Mark Rienzi says, "The government cannot reserve its public sidewalks for Planned Parenthood, as if their message is the only one women should be allowed to hear."
Even though the ruling was a unanimous one, the court's four liberal justices -- joined by Chief Justice John Roberts -- rejected the no-protest zones on narrower grounds than the other justices used. And that prompted Justice Antonin Scalia to complain that state and local governments will still have a lot of leeway in limiting abortion protests. He wrote that the court is "giving abortion-rights advocates a pass when it comes to suppressing the free-speech rights of their opponents."