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What Happened At the Supreme Court Yesterday

Category: Abortion

Tags: Abortion, Planned Parenthood, Supreme Court, SCOTUS, Massachusetts, Buffer Zone, Martha Coakley

Yesterday, the Supreme Court held oral arguments for McCullen vs. Coakley, a case that will affect whether staff and patients will have reasonable protection from violence and harassment while accessing health centers.

Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts CEO Marty Walz, who was one of the lead sponsors of Massachusetts' buffer zone law as a state legislator, gave us an inside look at the critical women's health case at the Supreme Court.

And for another take on what took place in the court room yesterday, be sure to check out ABC News piece, “Supreme Court Wrestles with Buffer Zone.”

Here's a roundup of some of the coverage we liked:

The Editorial Board of USA Today had something to say about the issue of the buffer zone in their piece, arguing that the buffer zone strikes the right balance between patient and staff safety and the right to free speech.  “Uphold abortion clinic 'buffer zone': Our view”—“…If there's a middle ground, it could be the size of the zone. When Justice Elena Kagan said she was ‘a little bit hung up on why you need so much space,’ Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Miller couldn't give a compelling reason for the 35 feet. Whatever the size, the concept of a buffer zone itself is familiar and court-tested. Mourners at funerals are protected from protesters by federal law and 43 state statutes, and those buffers can be 500 feet-1,000 feet. Buffer zones are also common at polling places; in 1992, the Supreme Court upheld Tennessee's 100-foot zone at polling place entrances to prevent voter intimidation.”

And according to POLITICO, apparently a tape measure was needed during the oral arguments as the Justices debated the length of the court room. “Justices need tape measure for abortion case”— “A simple if somewhat longer-than-usual tape measure would have come in handy at the Supreme Court Wednesday, as the justices and lawyers struggled to understand and dramatize the impact of a Massachusetts law that established a 35-foot zone limiting activities around abortion clinic entrances…. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg preferred to measure the distance in time. She asked the lawyer for those challenging the law, Mark Rienzi, how long it took someone to walk from the edge of the buffer zone to the clinic door.If you're walking nonstop, I assume seven to 10 seconds or something like that,’ Rienzi replied.There's not much you can do persuade someone in seven to 10 seconds,’ Ginsburg said. ‘The conversation can go on before those seven to 10 seconds.”


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