NewsHour: Supreme Court – Abortion – October 16, 1996

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now more on this case and other action at the court this week from NewsHour regular Stuart Taylor, correspondent for the American Lawyer and Legal Times. Thanks for coming, Stuart. Tell us about the arguments in the court today about this case.

American Lawyer: They were very lively arguments today. The issue before the court focused on the so-called 15-foot floating buffer zone. The, the protesters did not appeal the order that said they can’t block people, grab people, shove people. They were saying, we ought to have a right to go up to people and speak to them, hand them literature and so forth, and this 15-foot zone prevents us from doing that. Uh, the all–eight of the nine justices were jumping in during the arguments on one side or the other, and there are about three on each side, you can tell, and about three in the middle arguing back and forth with each other, using the justices as props. And it was an exceptionally lively argument that way, a difficult one to call. I mean, in, in this case the court is fine-tuning a precedent it already laid down a couple of years ago in terms of it’s fairly clear that they can do–that the courts can do something to prevent protesters from unduly harassing women who want to go into the clinics. It’s also fairly clear they–they don’t–the courts don’t have carte blanche just to say you’ve got to stay 300 feet away, and the court is trying to decide in this case, you know, where to draw the line.

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Does it make a difference that this is a case about an abortion clinic, if it were a heart clinic or something else, would it make a difference, do you think?