Nightly News   |  January 15, 2014

Will SCOTUS Strike Down Abortion Protest Buffer Zones?

The hot-button topic of abortion was back before the US Supreme Court on Wednesday.

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>>> and the battle over abortion was back before the supreme court today specifically this time, abortion protests and an effort to limit them around the entrances to clinics. the question before the justices today, does it violate free speech ? we get our report from our justice correspondent, pete williams .

>> reporter: this grandmother shows up twice a week in boston hoping to persuade women not to get abortions.

>> they're abandoned, they're alone, i'm just saying wait, don't rush in, can't reverse this.

>> reporter: but under state law protesters can't cross a line that keeps them 30 feet from the door. they say it violates free speech and makes conversation impossible.

>> we don't want to scream at them. we're not, but it sounds like we are if we have to holler.

>> the government is not allowed to say the sidewalks are opened for planned parenthood but closed for offering alternatives.

>> reporter: but the clinic says the law is response to years of aggressive tactics by protesters.

>> they were allowed to physically be up against the door and scream at patients as they walked into the clinic.

>> the protesters who want to have a quiet conversation with our patients have it right out on the sidewalk. and they do that on a regular basis. they just need to do it outside the buffer zone .

>> reporter: in court today, justice ginsburg says the buffers make sense because they can't screen people to know who will disrupt the area. but they say it is equal to a good portion of the courtroom in court. the justice says you want me to say there is no free speech on a right to converse on an important subject, other states have similar laws, the justices seem prepared to strike the massachusetts law down as a blunt instrument that restricts too much speech. pete williams , nbc, at the supreme court .