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 â€œbuffer zoneâ€ 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.
â€œAmericans have the freedom to talk to whomever they please on public sidewalks,â€ said attorney Mark Rienzi. â€œThe Supreme Court has affirmed a critical freedom that has been an essential part of American life since the nationâ€™s founding.â€
ADF petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the case after a federal appeals court upheld a lower courtâ€™s ruling in favor of the law.
In todayâ€™s ruling, the nationâ€™s high court underscores the pro-lifersâ€™ 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 choirâ€¦. In light of the First Amendmentâ€™s purpose â€œto preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevailâ€¦,â€ this aspect of traditional public fora is a virtue, not a vice.
The Christian Medical Association (CMA) filed a friend-of-the-court brief â€” along with other faith-based organizations â€” in support of the pro-lifers.
â€œThe Court simply reaffirmed that the First Amendmentâ€™s protection of peaceful speech and assembly is a cornerstone of this nation,â€ said the groupâ€™s CEO Dr. David Stevens. â€œHopefully 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.â€
Andrew Kloster, legal fellow with The Heritage Foundation, agrees. He called todayâ€™s decision a win both for pro-life advocates and the First Amendment.
â€œAnd yet it is another 9-0 less for the Obama administration, which weighed in on behalf of the State of Massachusetts,â€ he said. â€œFurther, it puts states on notice that they cannot pass sweeping laws based on narrow justifications â€” if safety is the concern, pass a law that deals specifically with safety and only with safety. Donâ€™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 â€” thereâ€™s the next First Amendment lawsuit waiting to be filed.â€