Release Date: May 29, 2014
BUFFALO, N.Y. – When the U.S. Supreme Court delivers its much-anticipated decision on whether to maintain buffer zones around reproductive clinics, University at Buffalo law professor Lucinda Finley will be in a unique position to interpret how it will change the ongoing debate and landscape on reproductive rights for women.
Finley successfully defended a similar case involving buffer zones before the Supreme Court in 1996 as part of the Schenk v. Pro Choice Network of WNY case. Because of that ruling, there is a 15-foot buffer zone around the doorway and driveway entrances of Western New York reproductive clinics.
There are also buffer zones in polling places, funerals and at the Supreme Court building itself, a precedent Finley says seems established and approved by the Supreme Court.
The present case before the Supreme Court examines the legal right to maintain buffer zones restricting protestors at Massachusetts reproductive clinics. It’s familiar constitutional territory for Finley, who also assisted with the Hill v. Colorado case, which involved a Colorado statute that established protest-free zones around health care facilities.
“This case before the Supreme Court will determine whether states and localities can – consistent with the First Amendment right to protest on the public sidewalk – enact general statutes establishing protest-free access areas around entrances to reproductive health facilities, which are known as ‘buffer zones’ or other sites that are frequent targets of disruptive, harassing, obstructive and often violent protest activities.,” says Finley, who is the Frank G. Raichle Professor of Trial and Appellate Advocacy.
“If the Court strikes down the Massachusetts buffer zone statute, it will make it much more difficult to set up buffer zones, even though they have been proven to protect safe access and enhance public safety, and are widely supported by law enforcement.”
If general buffer zone statutes that apply to anyone are struck down, Finley says, individual facilities that are the targets of protests will have to try to get a buffer zone through “expensive and time-consuming litigation seeking an injunction against specific individuals, even though the facility may not know the identity of the disruptive protestors, or those who will come to disrupt their business in the near future.”
Finley is available for interviews throughout the Supreme Court calendar. Contact her at 716-645-2996 or through Charles Anzalone in the UB Office of Communications at 716-645-4600.