After the U.S. Supreme Court last Thursday struck down a Massachusetts law that requires buffer zones around entrances to reproductive health clinics, Bay Area legislators and pro-choice advocates are looking into whether similar local laws will be impacted by the high court's decision.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that First Amendment free speech rights were being violated under Massachusetts's 2007 law that keeps protesters 35 feet away from abortion clinics.
The decision stems from McCullen v. Coakley, a case out of Massachusetts in which anti-abortion advocates argued that they have the right to approach women entering clinics for "sidewalk counseling."
The petitioners claimed that the 35-foot buffer zones have prevented them from their counseling efforts, impeding their First Amendment rights.
Legislation passed in San Francisco in May 2013 created a 25-foot buffer zone around entrances to reproductive health clinics, such as Planned Parenthood facilities where abortions are performed along with other women's health exams and procedures.
The law was crafted to prevent anti-abortion protesters from intimidating women going to the clinics.
San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, who authored the legislation, said that he was disappointed with the Supreme Court ruling.
"There is a big difference between free speech and harassment," he said. "Buffer zones allow for free speech but prevent harassment."
He said the decision left him "outraged," and that his office is working with the San Francisco City Attorney's Office to see what impact the ruling might have on the local law.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement that the court's ruling was "disappointing" and his office is still evaluating whether San Francisco's law is affected.
"The Court appears to have taken away from Massachusetts a balanced and effective law that helped protect public safety and ensure women's access to reproductive health care. The City Attorney's Office is closely examining the ruling and evaluating its effect, if any, on San Francisco's local buffer zone ordinance," Herrera said.