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.