Mass. law restricting speech around abortion clinics challenged on appeal

Pro-life advocates challenge constitutionality of 35-foot “buffer zone” law
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

BOSTON — An Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney together with ADF attorneys have filed a brief on behalf of pro-life advocates in federal appellate court against a Massachusetts law that creates a 35-foot “buffer” zone around abortion clinics.  The brief argues that the law essentially eliminates free speech rights within the zone by restricting pro-life advocates from sharing their message with people entering the clinics.

“Pro-life advocates shouldn’t be penalized for expressing their beliefs,” said ADF-allied attorney and lead counsel Michael DePrimo.  “They have the same First Amendment rights as anyone else in America.  This law was obviously intended to take away those rights and squelch pro-life speech guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

On Nov. 13, 2007, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law S.B. 1353, which created the buffer zone.  On Jan. 21, 2008, DePrimo and ADF attorneys filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Boston Division, challenging the constitutionality of the law.

The court upheld the law in August, prompting the pro-life advocates to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.

“Penalizing pro-life advocates because they choose to exercise their First Amendment rights in a public place is unconstitutional,” said ADF Legal Counsel Tim Chandler.  “This law makes it virtually impossible for them to exercise those rights, and we hope that the court will restore their constitutional right to share a life-saving message with those contemplating abortion.”

A copy of the 1st Circuit brief filed in McCullen v. Coakley is available at

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith.  Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.