The Unites States Supreme Court February 26 ordered lower courts to reconsider the validity of laws in Arizona and Colorado that restrict the activities of protesters outside abortion clinics.
The lower courts had upheld both measures.
The action, contained in two brief orders, was not surprising in light of an earlier Supreme Court ruling supporting the free-speech rights of protesters outside abortion clinics. The justices ruled pickets can confront patients 15 feet away from clinic entrances.
The mid-February ruling in a New York case did not strip abortion clinics and patients of the considerable protection granted in recent years against violence and intimidation. But the court said a federal judge went too far in ordering protesters to stay 15 feet away from any clinic staff or patient, no matter where they were. The justices ruled that the “floating buffer zones” violate protesters’ free-speech rights.
The Colorado Supreme Court and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals were told to restudy the Colorado and Phoenix laws in light of the mid-February ruling.
In Colorado, state courts had upheld a law that bars abortion protesters, including sidewalk counsellors, from moving within eight feet of anyone approaching or leaving a clinic unless that person grants permission to do so.
The Colorado law, enacted in 1993, applies anywhere within 100 feet of an abortion facility.
In Phoenix, a 1993 ordinance also applies within 100 feet of any abortion clinic, including public sidewalks. The ordinance requires protesters to stay eight feet away from anyone who asks them to back off.
The Colorado law and the Phoenix ordinance were challenged as free-speech violations. The justices had withheld action in both cases while they were considered the New York case.
-with files from the Associated Press