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McCullen v. Coakley

United States Supreme Court
573 U.S. 464 (2014)



Eleanor McCullen (plaintiff) attempted to speak with women one-on-one outside of abortion clinics to present them with alternatives to abortion. McCullen’s methods were relatively successful in convincing women not to have abortions. As a result of hostile confrontations and violence that had occurred outside abortion clinics, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (defendant) passed a law making it illegal for anyone to stand within 35 feet of an abortion clinic, with the exception of clinic employees and those entering or exiting the clinic. The legislature stated that the purpose of the law was to ensure public safety and access to healthcare. There was a preexisting law that made it a crime to block a person from entering or exiting an abortion clinic. After the law was passed, McCullen was forced to stand further away from clinics and could not achieve the intimate, one-on-one atmosphere that had previously helped her to convey her message. After the law was passed, McCullen was much less successful in convincing women not to have abortions. McCullen brought suit against Massachusetts, alleging that the law violated her First Amendment rights. The district court found in favor of Massachusetts, and the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Roberts, C.J.)

Concurrence (Alito, J.)

Concurrence (Scalia, J.)

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