by Bethany Monk
WASHINGTON D.C. – In a unanimous ruling Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that limited pro-lifers from talking to people entering abortion facilities.
Signed in 2007, the law required a 35-foot “buffer zone” around abortion sellers. Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed suit a year later on behalf of a group pro-lifers. The group, many of whom are grandparents, simply want to provide information on abortion alternatives, and offer support to those who want it.
“Americans have the freedom to talk to whomever they please on public sidewalks,” said attorney Mark Rienzi. “The Supreme Court has affirmed a critical freedom that has been an essential part of American life since the nation’s founding.”
ADF petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case after a federal appeals court upheld a lower court’s ruling in favor of the law.
In today’s ruling, the nation’s high court underscores the pro-lifers’ constitutional rights to share their ideas in public:
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.
The Christian Medical Association (CMA) filed a friend-of-the-court brief — along with other faith-based organizations — in support of the pro-lifers.
“The Court simply reaffirmed that the First Amendment’s protection of peaceful speech and assembly is a cornerstone of this nation,” said the group’s CEO Dr. David Stevens. “Hopefully such decisions will begin to address the alarming growth of coercive assaults on the free speech of anyone deemed not politically correct by the government.”
Andrew Kloster, legal fellow with The Heritage Foundation, agrees. He called today’s decision a win both for pro-life advocates and the First Amendment.
“And yet it is another 9-0 less for the Obama administration, which weighed in on behalf of the State of Massachusetts,” he said. “Further, it puts states on notice that they cannot pass sweeping laws based on narrow justifications — if safety is the concern, pass a law that deals specifically with safety and only with safety. Don’t pass a law that criminalizes the speech of many peaceful innocent protestors. And in those states that seek to burden sidewalk counselors and other pro-life protestors — there’s the next First Amendment lawsuit waiting to be filed.”