Supreme Court’s Buffer Ruling Belies a Violent Reality of Abortion Protest

The New York Times Editorial Board makes the point that “out in the real world” all anti-abortion advocates are not peaceful protestors, “and buffer-zone laws like the one in Massachusetts … are a considered response to a decades-long threat to public safety, largely in the form of harassment, physical intimidation and worse by people opposed to abortion.”

“Yet on Thursday the Supreme Court, in McCullen v. Coakley, struck down that law for violating the First Amendment.”

“This ignores what actually happens on the ground. As the factual record of the case made clear, Massachusetts has, like most states, endured a long and sometimes violent history of protest at reproductive-health clinics, including the 1994 murders of two Planned Parenthood workers by an abortion opponent.”

“The justices have firsthand experience with striking that delicate balance. The Supreme Court building’s own buffer zone, which includes its vast plaza and is far larger than 35 feet, prohibits ‘demonstrations, picketing, speechmaking,’ or any other conduct that is ‘reasonably likely to draw a crowd or onlookers.’ Yet all manner of viewpoints are expressed without difficulty every day on the sidewalk in front of the court.”

” … paper leaflets and polite words are not the real threats women face in trying to exercise their constitutional right to an abortion.”

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