In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an eight-foot buffer-zone rule outside of abortion clinics in Colorado. This eliminated the ability of abortion protesters to spew bile and venom (and often worse) at folks trying to enter the clinics.
Yesterday, though, the court unanimously struck down a 2007 Massachusetts law that banned protesters within 35 feet of abortion clinics.
"The court recognized our First Amendment rights, and now I'll have a chance to speak to people one-on-one," says Eleanor McCullen, lead petitioner of the case.
It's different in each state -- sometimes in each city -- but many places already have their own buffer laws, so the precedent shown here could be harrowing. West Palm Beach has a 20-foot buffer rule (enacted in '05), and Melbourne has a 36-foot buffer zone.
The Supreme Court ruling comes even though there is a history of anti-abortion crime, particularly in Florida. Six murders have taken place in the U.S outside of abortion clinics, and two occurred in Florida.
In 1993, Dr. David Gunn was shot and killed during an anti-abortion protest at the Pensacola Women's Medical Services Clinic. The doctor -- who performed abortions in Florida and Alabama -- and was getting out of his car in the clinic's parking lot when a man yelled "Don't kill any more babies!" and shot Gunn three times in the back.
Rescue America, the group in charge of that day's protest, didn't show much in the way of regret, according to History.com. "While Gunn's death is unfortunate, it's also true that quite a number of babies' lives will be saved," national director Don Treshman said after the slaying.
In 1994, Dr. John Britton, a physician and abortion provider, along with Jim Barrett, a retired Air Force colonel, were murdered outside the Ladies Center in Pensacola. They were gunned down by Paul Hill, a leader of the radical anti-abortion group American Coalition for Life Activists.
"I know one thing," the killer said that day to Fox News. "No innocent babies are going to be killed in that clinic today."
It's unclear if any decisions will be made on Florida's buffer-zone laws -- or any other cities' and states' -- but it seems likely after the ruling.
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.