WASHINGTON, DC – The Judicial Education Project has filed a Supreme Court amicae curiae brief supporting the petitioners in McCullen v. Coakley. The case involves whether a Massachusetts statute establishing a 35-foot fixed buffer zone around abortion clinics violates the First Amendment rights of pro-life counselors. The statute – challenged by petitioners – prohibits communications within the buffer zone for everyone except abortion clinic employees and agents, and thus impermissibly discriminates based on the viewpoint of the speaker.
The Judicial Education Project filed the brief on behalf of 12 women who attest to the importance of free speech in their abortion decisions, and regret their decisions to have an abortion. Amicaewere all misled by abortion clinic staff members about facts of fetal development and the severe physical and psychological harms of abortion they later experienced. They believe they would have not aborted their children if they had been given accurate information about abortion and been made aware of help available to support them in their pregnancies.
The Massachusetts statute discriminates against pro-life counselors by blocking their speech but giving free rein to representatives of abortion clinics. The First Amendment prohibits the government from picking and choosing which viewpoint it wants to be heard on public sidewalks.
The effect of the buffer zone is that pro-life speakers can only attempt to communicate by shouting or using loudspeakers rather than having sensitive, caring conversations with women considering abortion. It also restricts the right of women who want to receive information about abortion by outlawing even consensual conversations with pro-life counselors within the buffer zone.
The Massachusetts buffer zone silences one side of what may be the profoundest and most deeply emotional, political, and moral debate of our day, and violates the very essence of the First Amendment. JEP encourages the Supreme Court to clarify that the First Amendment must apply equally to all speakers, regardless of viewpoint.
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