The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn a Massachusetts law meant to keep protesters 35 feet away from abortion clinics is drawing local reaction.
Rhode Island ACLU head Steve Brown says he thinks the court struck the right balance in this ruling, a balance between the right to free speech and the right to have an abortion. He says the court appropriately noted that clinics have other ways of dealing with protestors who cross a line.
“If there is in fact any sort of obstruction or interference going on, then it’s up to the police to enforce the laws that are already on the books. And they should be enforced if actual obstruction is going on.”
But Planned Parenthood of Southern New England spokeswoman Susan Yolen says she’s disappointed by the court’s ruling. Still, she says, it won’t make much difference for now in Rhode Island because the state does not have a buffer zone law of its own.
“That isn’t something we’ve chosen to do in Rhode Island or Connecticut. Maybe the law’s interpretation down the road will allow for an approach that we can agree on.”
Yolen says regular protests at the organization’s center in Providence’s jewelry district (the center offers abortion services) have led clinic workers to provide patients with escorts to help them get safely inside.
Anti-abortion groups are praising the Supreme Court’s decision.