By Matt Murphy and Andy Metzger


STATE HOUSE -- The U.S. Supreme Court's decision on Thursday to strike down the state's buffer zone around abortion clinics thrust a new issue onto the Legislature's plate with Democratic leaders pledging to pursue a legal remedy to the ruling that would protect free speech, but also preserve the unimpeded access for women to reproductive health services.

The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision on Thursday, voided the state's seven-year-old law that created a fixed, 35-foot buffer zone outside family planning clinics in Massachusetts. In McCullen v. Coakley, plaintiffs challenged the law on the grounds that it violated the free speech rights of protesters to counsel patients as they enter clinics.

Gov. Deval Patrick, who signed the 2007 law, called the decision "disappointing" and said he would work with his legal team to develop a "fix" with the cooperation of the House and Senate that could pass before the end of July.

"I think the Legislature shares the concern about how to strike a balance between the ability of women to exercise their Constitutional rights and the ability of objectors to exercise theirs. We thought that the previous bill did that. The Supreme Court obviously disagreed. They said there's a different kind of balance to strike and we're going to try to do it before the session ends," Patrick told reporters.

>>> For video of Patrick's reaction to the ruling, go to: