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Anti-abortion protester on day of partial-birth abortion ruling.Anti-abortion protester on day of partial-birth abortion ruling. (Patrice Gilbert)

The First Amendment was intended to protect speech not just when doing so is easy, but also when doing so is difficult. From that perspective, we agree with the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in McCullen v. Coakley.

With the laudable aim of protecting patients who seek reproductive health services, Massachusetts had made it a crime for anyone, except a select few, to stand within 35 feet of a driveway or entrance to a reproductive health-care facility.

Whether a person was there quietly to counsel patients on alternatives to abortion, loudly to protest abortion or merely to stand silently in the forbidden zone, all except the clinic’s employees, police and other public personnel, as well as unrelated pedestrians, were banned from the buffer area.

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