BOSTON — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday against a new Massachusetts law that creates a 35-foot “buffer” zone around abortion clinics. The law essentially eliminates free speech rights within the zone by restricting pro-life advocates from sharing their message with people entering the clinics.
“Pro-life advocates shouldn’t be penalized for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF-allied attorney and lead counsel Michael DePrimo. “The buffer law is breathtaking in its scope. It obviously was designed and intended to squelch pro-life speech, but it prohibits much more, such as labor picketing and charitable solicitations. The First Amendment simply does not permit such outlandish restrictions on peaceful speech.”
“It’s ironic that Massachusetts, the ‘cradle of liberty,’ would pass a law that effectively creates a First Amendment-free zone that silences those who seek to share the truth about abortion,” said ADF Legal Counsel Tim Chandler. “Those with pro-life views have the same First Amendment rights as anyone else in America.”
On Nov. 13, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed into law S.B. 1353, which created the “buffer” zone. First-time violators face a fine of up to $500 and three months in jail. Repeat offenders face fines of up to $5,000 and 2 1/2 years in prison.
ADF attorneys filed suit on behalf of several pro-life advocates whose ability to communicate peacefully with people entering the clinics has been severely compromised by the new law. In some instances, the new law leaves only about one foot of public sidewalk open to free speech, making it virtually impossible to engage in reasoned conversation.
According to the pro-life advocates filing suit, more than 100 women have changed their minds about having an abortion after hearing their message.
ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.