Quantcast

Abortion clinic buffer zone ruling could affect Burlington - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Abortion clinic buffer zone ruling could affect Burlington

Posted: Updated:
BURLINGTON, Vt. -

The battle between free speech and access to health care rages on. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Thursday is threatening a Burlington city ordinance not even 2 years old. In 2012, the Burlington City Council passed a bill establishing 35-foot safety zones around reproductive clinics. The high court's ruling states that the 35-foot zone is too far.

Agnes Clift is one of a group of protesters that regularly demonstrate outside Planned Parenthood in Burlington. She says Thursday's decision is a win for their free speech rights.

"The only way we could communicate with people was by raising our voices and yelling, 'We don't wanna do that,'" Clift said.

Clift said she went to Washington to hear the verbal arguments of the U.S. Supreme Court case, where representatives from Planned Parenthood said their patients and employees were being harassed before the Massachusetts buffer zone was enacted.

"They were being followed into the entrance way of the health center, being given misinformation about health care, and they really felt like they were being intimidated and harassed," said Jill Krowinski of Planned Parenthood.

The Supreme Court ruling Thursday struck down an ordinance in Massachusetts that was similar to the one in Burlington.

The city is now reviewing the ruling to find out what works for the Queen City. In a statement, city attorney Eileen Blackwood said, "The Burlington buffer zone ordinance has both similarities with and differences from the Massachusetts law. We are in the process of reviewing and analyzing the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Massachusetts."

Agnes Clift would not call her demonstrations a protest.

"I wouldn't call it protesting. We were basically praying and offering people literature," she said.

Meanwhile, Krowinski says Planned Parenthood's main goal is to keep their patients safe.

"The Supreme Court's ruling [Thursday] to strike down the buffer zone law is really a complete disregard for the health and safety of patients and staff," Krowinski said.

There is also a law in New Hampshire similar to the ones here in Vermont and in Massachusetts. A federal judge ruled earlier this year that Vermont's law was constitutional, but the Supreme Court's decision will overrule that. The Supreme Court did not say that buffer zones were illegal, but rather it said that a 35-foot zone is just too far.

Legal Analyst Cheryl Hanna of the Vermont Law School says she would not be surprised to see anti-abortion demonstrators step in to challenge Burlington's ordinance.

"The court said that Massachusetts certainly had legitimate interest in maintaining public safety on streets and sidewalks and preserving access to reproductive health facilities. So to be very clear, the court never struck down the availability of buffer zones to cities and states. However, they said at the same time the Massachusetts law really imposed a very serious burden on those people who wanted to speak because they weren't able to have close personal conversations with patients and to distribute literature to them. And the court went on to say that those forms of expression have been closely associated with the First Amendment and the idea that people have the right to engage in political speech. The court then left open the opportunity for Massachusetts to go back and amend its statute to really capture the problems-- the problem of interference, the problem of obstructionism," Hanna said. "But what the court said is that those people who are there to discourage women from having abortions have the right to have personal conversations with those women and there was no way to do that under the buffer zone law currently."

And Hanna noted that the justices ruled unanimously and carefully avoided getting into a debate over abortion. Instead they focused on the speech rights aspects of the case.

Related Stories:

NH governor to sign abortion clinic buffer zone bill

City of Plattsburgh sets buffer zone for pro-life activists

Abortion opponents seek info on Planned Parenthood

Supreme Court to hear appeal of abortion-protest buffer zone

Buffer zone around Burlington Planned Parenthood to stay

Protesters sue Burlington over Planned Parenthood buffer zone

Protest buffer zone starts at Planned Parenthood in Burlington

Will Burlington protest buffer zone hurt neighboring businesses?

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • N.H. man killed in Lunenburg crash

    N.H. man killed in Lunenburg crash

    Monday, September 1 2014 11:33 PM EDT2014-09-02 03:33:55 GMT
    One man is dead following a tractor trailer rollover in Lunenburg.
    One man is dead following a tractor trailer rollover in Lunenburg.
  • 2 charged with skid-steer joyride on I-89

    2 charged with skid-steer joyride on I-89

    Monday, September 1 2014 10:15 PM EDT2014-09-02 02:15:25 GMT
    The theft of some construction vehicles caused chaos on the Interstate this weekend.
    The theft of some construction vehicles caused chaos on the Interstate this weekend.
  • Bike racers wrap up weekend events

    Bike racers wrap up weekend events

    Monday, September 1 2014 9:59 PM EDT2014-09-02 01:59:03 GMT
    The Green Mountain Stage Race took to the streets of Burlington Monday.
    The Green Mountain Stage Race took to the streets of Burlington Monday.
  • Allergy sufferers brave ragweed season

    Allergy sufferers brave ragweed season

    Monday, September 1 2014 7:08 PM EDT2014-09-01 23:08:26 GMT
    If you're sneezing, your nose is running and you're eyes are itchy once again this year -- you're not alone. Fall pollen counts are peaking in our region and proving tough for allergy sufferers looking to enjoy the outdoors.Despite a spate of heat and humidity, the signs of fall are undeniable. Cooler temperatures and color are on the way. And even though many think of spring as "allergy season" due to tree pollens, this time of year can be particularly tough for allergy sufferers, too -- bec...
    If you're sneezing, your nose is running and you're eyes are itchy once again this year -- you're not alone. Fall pollen counts are peaking in our region and proving tough for allergy sufferers looking to enjoy the outdoors.Despite a spate of heat and humidity, the signs of fall are undeniable. Cooler temperatures and color are on the way. And even though many think of spring as "allergy season" due to tree pollens, this time of year can be particularly tough for allergy sufferers, too -- bec...
  • Holiday drivers find lower prices at the pump

    Holiday drivers find lower prices at the pump

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:59 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:59:21 GMT
    Drivers this holiday weekend found lower gas prices at the pump.
    Drivers this holiday weekend found lower gas prices at the pump.
  • Sanders addresses Labor Day rally

    Sanders addresses Labor Day rally

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:51 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:51:52 GMT
    Community members gathered in Burlington's Battery Park Monday to celebrate Labor Day -- and hear from Senator Bernie Sanders.Union leaders addressed the importance of employees supporting one another. They also thanked the community for supporting Vermont's unions. Senator Sanders says the holiday is for working people to not only celebrate their gains, but to also address issues facing the working class."There's a lot of work in front of us if we're going to make sure that our kids and our ...
    Community members gathered in Burlington's Battery Park Monday to celebrate Labor Day -- and hear from Senator Bernie Sanders.Union leaders addressed the importance of employees supporting one another. They also thanked the community for supporting Vermont's unions. Senator Sanders says the holiday is for working people to not only celebrate their gains, but to also address issues facing the working class."There's a lot of work in front of us if we're going to make sure that our kids and our ...
  • Authorities seize animals from Santa's Land

    Authorities seize animals from Santa's Land

    Monday, September 1 2014 4:32 PM EDT2014-09-01 20:32:03 GMT
    The Windham County Sheriffs Department says it seized multiple animals from the theme park this weekend.
    The Windham County Sheriffs Department says it seized multiple animals from the theme park this weekend.
  • Body discovered in Massena

    Body discovered in Massena

    Monday, September 1 2014 4:02 PM EDT2014-09-01 20:02:43 GMT
    New York State Police are investigating an unidentified body found in Massena.
    New York State Police are investigating an unidentified body found in Massena.
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WCAX. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.