For Immediate Release - January 15, 2014

AG Coakley's Statement on Buffer Zone Hearing at the United States Supreme Court

BOSTON – Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley issued this statement regarding arguments heard before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning the Massachusetts buffer zone law:

“I am proud that Massachusetts passed the buffer zone law to help people access reproductive health care free from harassment. I also am proud of our office’s defense of this important law, and want to thank our outstanding team who worked on this case, with particular thanks to Assistant Attorneys General Jennifer Miller and Sookyoung Shin for their advocacy in this morning’s arguments. Today, I thought the justices asked insightful questions about the constitutional balance that this law must, and we believe does, strike. I am hopeful that they will conclude that the buffer zone statute appropriately protects speech, health care access, and public safety, and should remain law.”

 

BACKGROUND:

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today from Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Grace Miller following a brief filed by the AG’s Office in November that defends the constitutionality of the Commonwealth’s buffer zone law. The statute protects public safety and patient access to reproductive healthcare facilities by creating a 35-foot buffer zone around clinic entrances and driveways.

In the brief, the AG’s office argues that the law serves significant government interests in protecting public safety and safe access to reproductive health clinics while preserving ample opportunities for communication outside clinics.

Massachusetts passed its first buffer zone law in 2000, an 18-foot floating buffer that failed to prevent protestors from blocking entrances and intimidating patients. After a decades-long attempt to strike the right balance, Massachusetts finally settled on the fixed 35-foot buffer zone law currently in place. 

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