A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that said buffer zones around abortion clinics in Massachusetts violated protestors' First Amendment rights probably won't have any impact on Oregon, abortion rights advocates say.
The 2007 law created 35-foot buffers around entrances to Massachusetts' abortion clinics, was declared contrary to the first amendment. The state law was more specific and restrictive than the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act that prevents protesters from barring the entrance to reproductive health centers.
Still, abortion rights advocates say the ruling is a setback. “We are extremely disappointed that the Supreme Court failed to uphold the statute as a simple public safety measure,” says Liz Delapoer, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette.
Oregon Right to Life spokeswoman Liberty Pike says anti-abortion protestors can't deliver their message as effectively if they are kept too far from a clinic. “We feel that this was a victory for free speech and for the pro life movement and that women have the right to know the alternative for abortion," Pike says. "That’s what the sidewalk counselors try to do in a very friendly and peaceful manner.”
Multnomah County is no stranger to abortion protests. Chuck O’Neal of the Beaverton Grace Bible Church launched protests outside Northwest Portland’s Lovejoy Surgicenter, Oregon’s leading provider of abortions, in 2013. His videotaping of women entering the clinic led to an informal inquiry by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. The investigation didn't lead to any violations.
Officials at Lovejoy Surgicenter declined to comment on today’s supreme court proceedings.