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Court Upholds Abortion Clinic Access Law
1994 Act prohibits blocking access to abortion facilities
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Dateline: 04/16/01

Without further comment, the US Supreme Court today rejected a challenge to the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act banning protests that block access to abortion clinics.

The 1994 law makes it illegal to block access to any clinic where abortions are preformed, or to injure or intimidate women seeking abortions or members of the clinic staff.

Today's action by the court stemmed from a civil suit filed by the US Department of Justice against over 25 persons involved in blocking an Englewood, New Jersey reproductive health clinic in 1996 and 1997.

In that case, a federal judge issued an injunction preventing the defendants from blocking access to the clinic. The judge in the case also found the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act to be a constitutional act of Congress under the Commerce Clause.

The decision was further upheld by a series of US appeals courts.

In argument before the Supreme Court, lawyers for the persons charged in the original case argued that access to the clinic could have been regulated by local law enforcement officers, thus making federal intervention under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act a constitutionally invalid exercise of authority.

Attorneys for the Justice Department argued that Congress had passed the Act because local laws and law enforcement agencies, especially in smaller towns, were inadequate to properly respond to the level of potential violence associated with attempts to inhibit women's access to abortion clinics. Congress, government attorneys argued, has the power to ban violent and obstructive conduct whenever such conduct may substantially hinder interstate commerce.

 

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