December 20, 2014 · 28 Kislev

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Buffer Zones Ruling Tips Scales Against Rights of Women

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 26, 2014 -- In response to the Supreme Court's ruling today in McCullen v. Coakley, Rachel Laser, Deputy Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement:

We are dismayed by the Supreme Court's ruling today in McCullen v. Coakley, which invalidates a Massachusetts law establishing a 35-foot "buffer zone" around reproductive health care clinics. Buffer zones, like this one, aim to balance the free speech rights of individuals who wish to protest, speak to, or otherwise engage clients and employees of these clinics, while protecting the rights of women and employees to access health care and their place of work safely and without intimidation or harassment.

Chief Justice Roberts's unanimous opinion for the Court found the Massachusetts buffer zone law insufficiently narrowly tailored to protect protestors' free speech under the First Amendment. Yet, the decision effectively puts in place a system of onerous burdens - such as seeking separate injunctions in court - to protect individuals entering the reproductive health clinics, tipping the scales against the rights of women and clinic workers.

Our Reform Movement holds the core belief that women are moral decision-makers in their own right, entitled to make fundamental medical and reproductive choices. Further, as a religious denomination, we take particular interest in the way the Court treats buffer zones and the possible implications for houses of worship. As such, we joined the Anti-Defamation League's amicus brief, which highlights this very point.

The McCullen v. Coakley decision calls into question the equilibrium protecting the rights of all individuals concerned in these situations. We commend the Court for recognizing the importance of women's unobstructed access to reproductive health centers. However, we are concerned that today's ruling - by invalidating the Massachusetts buffer zone law - impedes this access.

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.3 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit for more.

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