Today the Supreme Court struck down the Massachusetts buffer zone around abortion clinics, a 35 feet area free of protesters to allow women unrestricted access to clinics that provide abortion services. These buffer zones were created with safety in mind, not only safety for women and their companions as they enter (if they are lucky enough to have someone with them), but also safety for the clinic workers inside. With a buffer zone clinic workers and police can more easily spot and thus be proactive about those who might mean them harm. This is likely why the Supreme Court has its own barrier. Oh the irony of it all.
Clinics that offer abortion services have long been the target of violence and not just shoving on the sidewalk. Clinics have been fired upon, bombed, and people who work in clinics have been murdered. It is not hard to see how this law is of particular importance to the women, clinic workers, police, and district attorneys in Massachusetts, after all it was in Brookline in 1994 that two clinic workers were shot and murdered.
Abortion protestors are not about free speech or even preventing abortion, these tactics are about intimidation and the goal is control. After all, spending money on long acting contraception instead of buses to ship picketers en masse to clinics would be the most effective way to reduce the abortion rate. The fact that the justices bought that gentle, street “counseling” tripe hook, line, and sinker, or worse they didn’t care is nothing short of atrocious. Picketers can still hurl insults and wave their placards 35 feet away (that is the only speech part of what they do), but removing the buffer zone now allows picketers to jostle women, intimidate, spray spit, and writhe en masse on sidewalks to cause a physical obstruction to the clinics.
The justices seem to feel that the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act which “makes it a federal crime to injure, intimidate, or interfere with those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health care services” is sufficient for safe clinic access. While that law includes property damage and blockades, the crime has to be committed to engage local law enforcement or the FBI. So yes, the police can haul protestors away after they’ve blocked access. Will every clinic now have its own police detail? Buffer zones help to prevent some of those crimes from happening in the first place, which was of course the whole point.
But the gall of it all is what the justices wrote. Roberts: “The buffer zones impose serious burdens on petitioners’ speech,” and “Compromise petitioners’ ability to initiate the close, personal conversations that they view as essential to ‘sidewalk counseling.'” Restrictions have apparently “taken their toll.” A sidewalk counselor recounted how she had persuaded “far fewer” women not to terminate since the buffer zone was established and oh, the pamphlets, they are so hard to hand out now. Since all clinic protestors seem to quote God, Jesus, or the Bible it is hard to see how clinic protestors are viewed as anything but religious proselytizing.
Translation: Unwanted, intrusive, and offensive religious messages and physical intimidation are more important than your silly health care. Women are definitely less equal when it comes to The Constitution and don’t you forget it. Think of the poor street counselors!