The Supreme Court is set to hear a case today brought by a 77-year-old grandmother who seeks to peacefully reach women who may be contemplating an abortion.
Eleanor McCullen stands on public sidewalks near abortion clinics in Massachusetts, her lawyers say, to reach a "unique audience, at a unique moment, in a compassionate and non-confrontational way." Her lawyers claim that over the years many women have accepted such offers of help from McCullen.
But McCullen says her efforts have been stymied since 2007 with the passage of a Massachusetts law that provides a 350foot buffer zone around abortion clinics. The law makes it a crime to "enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk" within 35 feet of an entrance, exit or driveway of an abortion clinic.
The case pits free speech advocates against officials in Massachusetts concerned with public safety.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley says in court briefs that the law was necessary after other federal and state laws failed to solve the problem of demonstrators blocking public access to clinics.