SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

June 27, 2014

Abortion foes hail Supreme Court decision as 'great victory'

State Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover, called it a “great victory” for freedom of speech.

But, Andover resident Rebecca Haley-Park said she was outraged.

Lyons and Haley-Park were reacting yesterday to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the Massachusetts buffer zone law that excluded protesters outside abortion clinics.

The unanimous decision released yesterday overturns the state law setting a 35-foot protest-free zone outside the clinics, saying it violates the First Amendment rights of protesters.

Hayley-Park said she has spent summers fundraising for Planned Parenthood in Boston and often was harassed.

“I’ve been literally chased around by men screaming at me and shoving pictures of partial birth abortions in my face. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be accosted like that when you’re already facing a distressing, difficult situation,” she said.

Anyone who has walked by, or into, a Planned Parenthood, especially in an urban setting, know how abrasive and intimidating these groups are,” Haley-Park said.

“They rely on scare tactics and the vulnerable situation of their victims to perpetuate their agenda. This isn’t simply an issue of free speech, this is an issue concerning the safety of women utilizing the services of planned parenthood, whether it be for a simple doctor’s appointment, an STD test, or, yes, an abortion,” Haley-Park said.

But, Rep. Lyons see its differently.

“Today was a victory for free speech in Massachusetts. People have the right to express their opinions on sidewalks,” he said. “They have the right to give information to women who wish to seek it on the sidewalks.”

The Supreme Court ruled that the state’s law unconstitutionally restricted speech on public ways and sidewalks. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, found that “buffer zones serve the Commonwealth’s legitimate interests in maintaining public safety on streets and sidewalks and in preserving access to adjacent reproductive healthcare facilities,” but wrote that they also “impose serious burdens on petitioners’ speech, depriving them of their two primary methods of communicating with arriving patients: close, personal conversations and distribution of literature.”

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