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SCOTUS Limits Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone, Rebukes Obama

SCOTUS unanimously rules 35-foot buffer zone for abortion clinics is too expansive, in narrow opinion that doesn't question buffer zone legality.

SCOTUS unanimously rules 35-foot abortion clinic buffer zone is too expansive in narrow opinion that doesn’t question buffer zone legality.

TWO UNANIMOUS opinions out of the Supreme Court today, which doesn’t happen very often. It’s not going to make my feminist friends happy that in unanimously striking down the Massachusetts abortion clinic buffer zone I believe SCOTUS has done the right thing. Freedom of speech should always be equally weighed when laws can be modified to do so. Same goes with the executive slap directed at President Obama over recess appointments, with which I also agree, though the Senate’s nuclear option mutes it a bit.

From Think Progress, who makes the case against the unanimous decision that struck down abortion clinic buffer zones.

According to the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which closely tracks threats and violence against abortion providers across the country, buffer zones have had a measurable impact in the areas where they’re in place. A recent survey conducted among NAF’s member organizations found that 51 percent of facilities in areas with buffer zones reported a decrease in criminal facility after the policy was enacted, and 75 percent of them said it helped improve patients’ and staff members’ ability to access the clinic.

“Buffer zones make a huge difference,” Ashley Hartman, who holds a master’s in public health from Ohio State University and has volunteered as a clinic escort in the Cleveland area, said in an interview with ThinkProgress. “The reality is, if you’ve ever been outside a clinic, it’s not about exchanging ideas… Protesting is about creating the feeling of intimidation, so the more distance you can have from them, the less powerful that intimidation is.”

Now that the policy has been struck down, however, the women visiting reproductive health facilities in Massachusetts won’t be able to rely on that distance.

Protesters will be allowed to crowd the sidewalks around the clinic and speak directly to patients — something that can make people feel uncomfortable enough to avoid the clinic and skip out on the health services they need.

I’ve emphasized the last section for a reason.

Women who are seeking an abortion have no reason to be ashamed, no reason to let people make them “feel uncomfortable.” Abortion is a legal procedure. Fanatics in your face when you’ve decided to get an abortion shouldn’t impact how you feel. I say this as someone who has had an abortion, having driven across several state lines to get one, regardless that it was a legal procedure.

SCOTUS didn’t rule out buffer zones entirely, but believes the 35-foot buffer zone law in Massachusetts is unconstitutional, because of its expanse. What this means is that new laws will have to be created and passed that respect free speech, but also keep women safe.

NARAL Pro-Choice America President, Ilyse Hogue expresses “deep disappointment” in the opinion. She goes on to say, “Let’s be clear: today’s decision puts women and health care providers at greater risk.”

“Every person in our state, and across the nation, deserves the right to access health care services free from violence, harassment, and intimidation.” – Ilyse Hogue

Hogue is exactly right. NARAL is also fundraising on it. Will SCOTUS enliven the reproductive choice crowd who takes women’s freedoms for granted?

So, if anti-abortion fanatics impede a woman’s ability to access a clinic, police will have to be called, charges filed, etc. Women of the 21st century will have to stand even stronger for their legal civil rights, including suing some of these crazy religious groups, making them pay for emotional pain and suffering, distress, if that’s what it takes.

Buffer zones remain an important legal tool, which SCOTUS did not strike down. It’s simply how it’s defined, which must include respect for free speech, while not resulting in bodily harm or physical threat that women may have to start suing to stop. That’s a legal remedy, however distasteful and onerous it sounds.

As for the executive slap to President Obama on recess appointments, the Congress has been a feckless tool of partisan presidential prerogatives for a very long time, the Senate at issue here. I’m against the president as king philosophy, which is represented in NSA overreach, as well as our national security policies. If I believed this unanimous decision on recess appointments that circumvent the Senate would make Congress more independent of the executive I’d be even more supportive of SCOTUS’s ruling. However, we all know that whatever political party the president is, his team in Congress is his, someday her, lackey.

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16 Responses to SCOTUS Limits Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone, Rebukes Obama

  1. secularhumanizinevoluter June 26, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    I love it….from behind THEIR no free speech buffer zone they issue this ruling!!!!!! Then it’s time to aggressively start protecting workers and clients and recording and prosecuting the domestic terrorists.

    On the recess appointments….them’s the rules so them’s the rules……so the Dems f–kin A should remember this for whenever…IF ever there is a repugnantklaner in the Whitehouse!

  2. mjsmith June 26, 2014 at 1:46 pm #

    This is a no-brainer. Everyone has the Right to Free Speech.

    Mark Rienzi, who represented the protesters at the Supreme Court, said, “The government cannot reserve its public sidewalks for Planned Parenthood, as if their message is the only one women should be allowed to hear. Today’s decision confirms that the First Amendment is for everyone, and that the government cannot silence peaceful speakers. That result is good news for Eleanor McCullen, and it is great news for the women she helps.”

    • secularhumanizinevoluter June 26, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

      ” and that the government cannot silence peaceful speakers.”

      As usual completely disingenuous drivel from the other side.
      These are NOT “peaceful speakers” They are the shock troops of the war of domestic terrorism waged by the UBERChristian Taliban up to and including physical attacks,fire bombings and murder has been largely ignored b y the Federal Government since day one. Along with the right wing’s continued attempts to unconstitutionally restrict a woman’s access to reproductive health care and choice this constitutes a stain on American Justice and the concept of equal protection under the constitution. That this decision was issued from BEHIND A 98FOOT BUFFER ZONE simply proves irony is in fact dead.

  3. PeggySue June 26, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    Being screamed at, threatened, deliberately blocked and spat upon is beyond ‘free speech’ in my mind. This is the heart of the matter:

    “Every person in our state, and across the nation, deserves the right to access health care services free from violence, harassment, and intimidation.” – Ilyse Hogue”

    In a perfect world, where protesters acted within the realm of reasonable discourse and behavior, buffer zones would not be an issue. But we’re not living in that world.

    So, if 35 feet is too large a corridor then make it 30 or 25 feet. The hypocrisy working here is that the Supreme Court demands a 100-ft buffer zone around its own building for safety and decorum.

    For the safety women seeking a legal abortion or other reproductive services?

    Not so much. Ugh!

    • mjsmith June 26, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

      The Supreme Court Building has, among other things, Moses holding what appears to be The 10 Commandments displayed and they refuse to allow other Courts to display The Ten Commandments. So yeah, I know the Supreme Court has a history of hypocrisy when it comes to applying their own rulings to themselves.

      If someone is breaking the law, they should be arrested. If someone, or even a group of people, are breaking the law, the First Amendment should not be restricted.

      • PeggySue June 26, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

        This is not a restriction of free speech. No one said protesters cannot congregate, work their signs and scream whatever obscenity they choose. It’s about the in-your-face proximity, deliberately intended to intimidate women who are exercising their own right–access to legal reproductive health services.

        If you’re close enough to spit on a person, the intention is not to exercise free speech. It’s clearly intended to obstruct, demean and humiliate.

        This was a bad decision, be it unanimous or not.

        • mjsmith June 26, 2014 at 5:02 pm #

          I will tell you that there are things I had done or said or perhaps believe in that other people feel is highly offensive, immoral, and even though legal and within my Rights I am told what I did/said/believe or whatever is heinous and an abomination along with a load of unpleasantness. Thankfully I outgrew letting what other people, especially people that I don’t know and do not know me, influence who I am as a person and what I do with my life. I remember being told ho? w supporting the Palestinian cause was equal to supporting evil and being critical of Israel is an offense to the Almighty. On and on I would get called the worst things for supporting basic human rights and being against the worst suffering. Do people have a right to call me names? Do people have a right to ridicule my heritage and who I am as a person? Is it fair for people to call me names or even want to beat me up because of who I am and what I believe?

          I would never want the Freedom of Speech taken away because some people do not know how to behave themselves.

    • PaperbackRuyter June 26, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

      Blocking and spitting on people,as well as some of the other things in the title picture are illegal and are separate from free speech. People who do those things should be punished but that has nothing to do with this decision. I believe making threatening comments is also illegal. This decision does not legalize any of those things.

      The trouble is the right to choice and privacy was bumping up against the right to free speech . I am surprised this was a unanimous decision but the fact it was 9-0 means the Court was working outside partisan biases to do what they felt was the right thing, and that hopefully will help people to be more comfortable with the decision.

  4. casualobserver June 26, 2014 at 8:15 pm #

    “It’s about the in-your-face proximity, deliberately intended to intimidate women who are exercising their own right–access to legal reproductive health services. If you’re close enough to spit on a person, the intention is not to exercise free speech. It’s clearly intended to obstruct, demean and humiliate.
    This was a bad decision, be it unanimous or not.”

    Apparently, you read the wrong SCOTUS decision. The bubble zone is 8 feet. This decision has done nothing to change that. The spitting incident cited must have been accomplished downwind on a stormy day.

    • PeggySue June 26, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

      Yes and as I understand it the ‘bubble zones’ often require multiple ‘escorts’ to shepherd a woman into the clinic in order to create that protective ‘bubble’ from rowdy, Free Speech, First Amendment activists, who have indeed spit and screeched and prophesized damnation to any woman seeking her legal right to reproductive healthcare.

      Guess they weren’t using a tape measure.

      I find the whole idea of women being forced to run a gauntlet to enter a medical clinic ridiculous and offensive. The notion that protestors merely want ‘to converse with their fellow citizens’ [who are seeking legal services, btw, not all of which are abortion related] is ludicrous. Massachusetts had reason to implement the ruling after violent protests resulted in the ‘94 fatal shooting leaving 2 dead, 5 wounded. And we all know that Massachusetts is not an isolated incident. The national statistics are grim: “8 recorded murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 181 arsons, multiple acid attacks and thousands of incidences [in the neighborhood of 6000+] of other criminal activities since 1977. By 2010, one out of every five reproductive healthcare facilities had been impacted by violence .”[Think Progress/National Abortion Federation stat compilation].

      It makes little sense to wait for another tragedy to happen when a common sense approach can reduce the risk without impeding anyone’s rights, including Free Speech.

      I do not agree with this decision. But SCOTUS ruled. Hopefully, MA goes back and reworks the ruling to the court’s satisfaction while ensuring the safety of women and healthcare providers. Because they, too, have rights.

      • secularhumanizinevoluter June 27, 2014 at 6:51 am #

        The bald faced intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy of the pro psycho/anti reproductive/women’s rights posters here is ample evidence of the state of politics in our country today. The conSERvative side comes from a non reality, utterly dishonest, say anything based fever swamp…you can’t really call it a position. GUARENTEE if any protestors were screaming and blocking any of their churches they would be screaming they were being persecuted and want the evil gobment to intervene.

        • PeggySue June 27, 2014 at 11:08 am #

          You’re right, Sec. Hypocrisy is the conservative fallback position:

          Rights for Me but not for Thee.

        • ladywalker68 June 29, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

          Well, Taylor, I disagree with you on this one and agree with PeggySue. This will only embolden those who feel God has designated them as deputies who have the freedom to intimidate and bully people regarding something that is none of their damn business. It is going to get much worse now that the joke that calls itself “Supreme” weighs in. It’s more like Court Jesters bought at paid for by people who want their freedom to tell other people how to live their lives. Apparently, cell phones and hateful mouths are off limits but a woman’s vagina is belongs to the country.

          Here is only one reason (awesomely articulated) why a buffer zone needs to be LARGER than 35 feet:

          • Taylor Marsh June 29, 2014 at 10:32 pm #

            The question isn’t whether anyone is emboldened, which I’m not arguing. Seeking it to be larger is a fantasy.

            Chief Justice Roberts, however, revealed himself as a deeply ignorant man in his opinion.

            Armed guards for clinics, bodyguards, with women filing lawsuits against the crazed fundamentalists who have no idea what freedom means will have to be the root.

            Allowing yourself to be intimidated for a legal procedure is something to fight. Maybe this will also embolden younger generations who take their civil rights for granted.

  5. Mike Light June 27, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    Another SCOTUS rebuke was for the Environmental Protection Agency. Some time back the SC had allowed Carbon Dioxide to be considered a pollutant, and the EPA can create rules for pollutants in excess of 250 tons/year from a business or utility. However, 250 tons of CO2 would cover just about anything that runs a power generator or consumes a fuel (coal, nat-gas, propane, etc.), so the EPA arbitrarily said “Let’s change that to 100,000 tons of CO2, but 250 tons for everything else”.

    The SC (5-to-4) said: “No, the law says 250 tons/year. You can’t just make up new law.”

    This ought to worry folks about all of the ObamaCare “exemptions” and delays that have been made, if the SC says “you can only do what the law says”.
    – Mike

    • secularhumanizinevoluter June 27, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

      “This ought to worry folks about all of the ObamaCare “exemptions” and delays that have been made, if the SC says “you can only do what the law says”.
      – Mike

      BWAHAHAHAHAHA Been there done that.

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