Court Declines Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone Case

The Supreme Court (search) on Monday declined to consider the constitutionality of state laws that regulate speech and activities within a buffer zone around abortion clinics.

Without comment, justices let stand a lower court ruling upholding a Massachusetts law that was passed after the 1994 fatal shooting of two abortion clinic workers. Anti-abortion protesters say the state-mandated zones have unfairly become a place where only abortion rights rhetoric can be uttered.

The law, which creates a six-foot buffer zone around patients within an 18-foot radius of a clinic entrance, prohibits anyone from approaching without their consent for the purpose of passing leaflets or "engaging in oral protest, education or counseling."

The law created an exemption for clinic workers so long as they're "acting within the scope of their employment."

State lawmakers began pushing for a buffer zone after John Salvi (search) walked into two Boston-area clinics and opened fire, killing two receptionists and wounding five others. He killed himself in prison in 1996.

Massachusetts Citizens for Life (search), an anti-abortion group, had argued the law denies protection to women and their unborn children. Women considering whether to have abortions benefit by having information distributed to them outside clinics, the group said.

The case is McGuire v. Reilly (search), 04-939.