Buffering out the right to hear the case against abortion

But the practical effect of the Massachusetts law, which forces pro-life protesters, advocates, and counselors to stay at least 35 feet away from the entrance to any abortion clinic, is to make a reasonable exchange of ideas extremely difficult, if not impossible. The law, signed by Governor Deval Patrick in 2007, makes no allowance for peaceful or quiet protest. It doesn’t permit an individual to simply stand in silence, holding a sign or offering pamphlets. It forbids approaching even a willing listener who would like to hear — who might be desperate to hear — about a realistic alternative to abortion. The 35-foot boundary is marked with paint, and anyone who steps over it can be sentenced to as much as 2½ years in prison…

Women such as Paula Lucas-Langhoff, whose story is one of those recounted in Severino’s amicus brief. Pregnant at 19, she was under pressure by her boyfriend to get an abortion. But the prospect filled her with trepidation. “The night before the abortion, I wandered the neighborhood looking for someone, anyone, that I could talk to who could help,” she recalls. She had been assured by the abortion clinic staff that the procedure would be “easy”; in fact it was physically excruciating and emotionally traumatizing.

“I would give anything to change the past,” Lucas-Langhoff tells the court in her sworn statement. “If pro-life counselors had been outside the abortion clinic that evening, my child would be alive today, but I was too young and frightened to know what to do . . . My baby died because I was alone and had no one to help me.”