Tuesday, July 29, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Should the Supreme Court protect entrances to abortion clinics?

By
From page A11 | January 17, 2014 |

The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard a challenge to a 2007 Massachusetts law that creates 35-foot buffer zones around the entrances of abortion clinics, a law intended to offset harassment and violence that included a 1994 shooting rampage at two facilities. But critics say the law infringes on the First Amendment right of anti-abortion protesters to make their case to clinic clients.

Should the entrances be buffered? If so, how much space is enough space? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the Red-Blue America columnists, debate the issue.

Joel Mathis

Let us grant Eleanor McCullen this: If the Massachusetts buffer zone has truly infringed on her constitutional right to advocate against abortion, then she is one of the most effective activists alive.

Why? Because, by her own estimates, the plaintiff in this week’s Supreme Court case has persuaded 80 women not to have abortions – and that was after the 2007 law went into effect. Unleashed from the law, there might be no limit to what McCullen could accomplish for the pro-life cause.

But the First Amendment isn’t the only right in question.

Property owners – including the clinic’s owners and landlords – have the right to use and access their property. The clinic’s clients have the right to access women’s health care services that are both legal and constitutional. And they do it in full view of the opposition: McCullen and her allies are just a few dozen feet away, making their viewpoints known.

The current law keeps those opponents 35 feet away from clinic entrances; a prior version of the law had an effective buffer about half that size, about 18 feet. The Massachusetts Legislature revised the law after hearing “how protesters regularly barred access to clinics by physically blocking doors and driveways, and screamed from close range and from immediately next to doorways or driveway entrances at patients trying to enter clinics,” Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley told the court in her brief defending the buffers.

Under that scenario, only the anti-abortion protesters had their rights protected. Thus, the buffer increased to 35 feet.

The Supreme Court may decide that buffers are fine, but order Massachusetts to reduce the size of the zone. That would be wrong: The state has already succeeded in balancing the rights of the parties involved. Women and clinics are able to exercise their rights with minimal fear and intimidation, and abortion opponents still have their say.

The Supreme Court would do well to let the current law stand; Eleanor McCullen doesn’t seem to need the help.

Ben Boychuk

A few years ago, when the “reverend” Fred Phelps and members of his loathsome Westboro Baptist Church asked the Supreme Court to vindicate their First Amendment freedom to protest a private funeral for a dead U.S. serviceman, civil libertarians fell all over themselves to insist that as bad as the Phelps family’s views may be, they had every right to make a solemn occasion into a circus.

The justices agreed by a vote of 8-1.

In Massachusetts, however, civil libertarians are making a different case. The state must “balance” pro-life demonstrators’ First Amendment rights with a woman’s solemn right to choose an abortion.

To that end, creating a 35-foot buffer to protect these women from a disfavored point of view – namely, that there are safer and better alternatives to abortion – is a fitting tradeoff, and certainly does no harm to anyone’s freedom of expression, even if the effect of the law is to silence pro-life demonstrators. Or so the civil libertarian argument goes.

Trouble is, it’s not a very good argument in this case. When freedom of speech collides with the right of privacy, privacy should prevail. But the Westboro Baptist demonstrators’ supposed “freedom of speech” is more akin to a breach of the peace than anything else. It’s certainly not what Eleanor McCullen would describe as the right to “walk and talk gently, lovingly, anywhere with anybody,” as she as done diligently for decades with women who may not realize their options extend beyond snuffing out an innocent life.

The Supreme Court last addressed the “buffer zone” question in 2000. Justice Antonin Scalia noted in a scathing dissent at the time that the court’s tortured jurisprudence, which took the abortion debate largely out of the hands of elected officials, meant that “the most effective place, if not the only place, where . . . persuasion can occur, is outside the entrances to abortion facilities.”

We’ve reached an odd point where protesting a funeral, burning a cross, and dancing nude are all protected forms of speech, but the gentle persuasion of an elderly pro-lifer requires the heavy hand of the state. How is that freedom? These buffer zones silence opinion and need to go.

Ben Boychuk (bboychuk@city-journal.org) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal. Joel Mathis (joelmmathis@gmail.com) is associate editor for Philadelphia Magazine.

Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 2 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • The MisterJanuary 17, 2014 - 5:58 am

    Should the Supreme Court protect Christian Churches? Seems as if they are under more assault than any other organization.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • MickJanuary 17, 2014 - 8:59 am

    I don't think you know the correct meaning of the word assault.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Area LGBT Democratic Club cancels meet

By Glen Faison | From Page: A5

 
Library teens plan summer reading party

By Glen Faison | From Page: A5

 
Weather for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page:

 
Big-rig driver strikes telephone lines in Fairfield

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Fairfield police log: July 27, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: June 27, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

 
Caltrans makes I-80 lane change

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
Fairfield tries to end Cordelia Road detour

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ primed for big screen

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A7

.

US / World

 
Sacramento Gold Rush Days canceled due to drought

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Annoying minor floods are increasing on US coasts

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Man charged in teen’s 9-month disappearance

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Medicare’s own health looking better, report says

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Deal to improve veterans’ health care costs $17B

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Suspect dead, 2 marshals and cop wounded in NYC

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
New fears about Ebola spread after plane scare

By The Associated Press | From Page:

In Iraq’s Mosul, radicals unleash their vision

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Fighting in Ukraine prompts residents to flee

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Israeli PM warns of prolonged campaign in Gaza war

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Witnesses: Thunderstorm hit beach without warning

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Suspect’s mom also charged in Long Beach burglary

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
City: Emails show ‘cozy’ ties of PG&E, regulator

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Pool water dumped in South Tahoe; resort fires 3

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Additional charge filed in California wildfire

By The Associated Press | From Page:

California governor takes dig at Texas guard plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
.

Opinion

Editorial cartoons for July 29, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page:

 
Immigration protests short on compassion

By John M. Crisp | From Page:

 
.

Living

Horoscopes for July 29, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

 
Today in History for July 29, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page:

I don’t want to have intimate contact since learning I had a STD

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page:

 
Community Calendar: July 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page:

.

Entertainment

Kevin Bacon brings his ‘Six Degrees’ to Comic-Con

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Sarah Palin launches online subscription channel

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

‘Sharknado’ sequel has bite and lots of laughs

By Frazier Moore | From Page: | Gallery

 
TVGrid July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

.

Sports

Giants lose 5th straight, 5-0 to Pirates

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
 
Lakers finally confirm Byron Scott is new coach

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Raiders relying on healthy Watson to solidify line

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
This date in sports history for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Quarterback Johnny Manziel’s day at Browns camp

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Judge OKs record-setting $2B sale of Clippers

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Humphrey to savor Hall of Fame day with ‘wingman’

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Rays’ Archer: ‘Never saw Hank Aaron flip his bat’

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Reed HOF induction gives Bills cause to celebrate

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

In the Pits: Gordon eyeing 5th title after big Brickyard win

By Jenna Fryer | From Page: | Gallery

 
Marketing agreement an obstacle in US bid for 2024

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Sailors to navigate dirty water in 1st Rio test

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Manningham back with Giants, with no guarantees

By The Associated Press | From Page:

.

Business

Contracts to buy US homes slip in June

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
FAA proposes to fine Southwest Airlines $12M

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Stocks pause as traders await key economic news

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Zillow buying Trulia to build real estate titan

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Dollar Tree steps up fight, buys Family Dollar

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

B.C. July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Get Fuzzy July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baldo July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Baby Blues July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Rose is Rose July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Zits July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Crossword July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Garfield July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Pickles July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Frank and Ernest July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Beetle Bailey July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Word Sleuth July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Cryptoquote July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

For Better or Worse July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Bridge July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Wizard of Id July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Dilbert July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sally Forth July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Blondie July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Sudoku July 29

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5