Join 3,557 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


"Abortion escorts represent one, fugitive instance of political action."
June 26, 2014 1:36 PM   Subscribe

SCOTUS just overturned abortion clinic buffer zones in an unanimous decision. So remember that there are people who escort patients past the protesters. (Last link has autoplay video.)
posted by anotherpanacea (188 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hopefully, they can still get the protesters on harassment, disturbing the peace, etc. Bleah.
posted by Melismata at 1:40 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


how come the protesters don't have to stand in "designated free speech zones"?
posted by rebent at 1:41 PM on June 26 [80 favorites]


Oh, and as someone in the boston.com comments pointed out: does this also apply to the Democratic and Republican national conventions?
posted by Melismata at 1:43 PM on June 26 [32 favorites]


Many have pointed out that the Supremes asserted their own court's buffer zone just a few weeks ago.
posted by emjaybee at 1:44 PM on June 26 [49 favorites]


You Wanna Keep Harassing Women at Clinics?
posted by goethean at 1:44 PM on June 26 [30 favorites]


I didn't want to put this in the post itself, but you can call your local Planned Parenthood and volunteer as an escort pretty easily. In DC, there's an independent group, the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:44 PM on June 26 [12 favorites]


a limited constitutional right to succeed in having close, one-on-one encounters with patients

Maybe I'm completely blinded by my side of the issue and I am no lawyer, but can that be so? If I have a Constitutional right to get into peoples' faces and express my ideas, look out people on cell phones in movies, door-to-door magazine salesmen, metric system users, people in church who don't like being farted on, etc.
posted by yerfatma at 1:44 PM on June 26 [16 favorites]


Step 1: Post a sign outside of the clinic, "Raise your hand if you do not wish to be spoken to anyone but your healthcare provider and their assistants."

Step 2: Post a policeman outside of the clinic (likely already SOP).

Step 3: Arrest Detain anyone speaking to someone about their healthcare choices for harassment, so long as that patient has clearly indicated that they don't wish to be spoken to.
posted by explosion at 1:44 PM on June 26 [9 favorites]


What happens if someone decides to counsel the abortion protesters right there on the same sidewalk? Do they have just as strong a right to let the protesters know that they don't have to harass women?
posted by benito.strauss at 1:45 PM on June 26 [8 favorites]


My parents were escorts when I was young and we lived near the Morgentaler clinic in Toronto. If I was still living in the US, I would do it too. Luckily, I live in a country where abortion is legal, but if some of the crazier elements of the Conservative party ever start acting up again, I will do it here.


Interestingly, that clinic was firebombed one long weekend. Culture of life, indeed.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:48 PM on June 26 [5 favorites]


yerfatma, as long as you stand on a public sidewalk, this appears true.

The court did not strike down all buffer zones--not yet anyway. Hill v. Colorado still stands, according to the law-interpreting types I'm reading online. It's narrower and just provides for an 8-foot barrier around an individual. Of course, another challenge might take that down too.
posted by emjaybee at 1:50 PM on June 26


benito.strauss, yes they do, but escort training generally involves defusing techniques rather than counter-protest techniques. The idea is that most pro-choice activists don't want to further politicize the entrance to the clinic, since that's not an appropriate place to have an argument (it just makes it that much less comfortable to enter the clinic) and the antis aren't listening, anyway. So escorts tend to emphasize decorum and work on protecting patients who wish to enter the clinic from the negative attitudes of the protesters by projecting calm and making small talk or offering comfort.

If you want to protest the protesters, I think this might make more sense.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:50 PM on June 26 [14 favorites]


If I have a Constitutional right to get into peoples' faces and express my ideas, look out people on cell phones in movies, door-to-door magazine salesmen, metric system users, people in church who don't like being farted on, etc.

Movie theaters are generally private places - the First Amendment doesn't apply. Note that you can be booted from a theater for talking in the first place!

You may certainly speak your mind to salesmen and users of the metric system, just as they can do the same to you, and just as they can tell you to stop bothering them, and vice versa.

Farting *on* somebody would technically constitute assault.

What happens if someone decides to counsel the abortion protesters right there on the same sidewalk? Do they have just as strong a right to let the protesters know that they don't have to harass women?

Of course!
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:52 PM on June 26 [9 favorites]


When I was a clinic escort in Oregon, access to the clinic was protected under RICO and that's why they had to stay away. I guess that just means they can't block access though, and they can still get right on up in the doorway as long as they let people through?
posted by librarina at 1:52 PM on June 26


Pretending these decisions are about really about important abstract principles is ridiculous and just gets us into trouble. More actual people are going to die and be abused as a result of this decision, imaginary benefits to theoretical people be damned. The only beneficiaries in practice are Americans invested in ignorantly harassing/harming other Americans for seeking what in any individual case might even be medically-necessary, life-saving care.

The court's personally morally culpable for those abuses now, regardless of where you stand on the theory behind this decision.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:53 PM on June 26 [28 favorites]


Many have pointed out that the Supremes asserted their own court's buffer zone just a few weeks ago.

The court's plaza is not a public forum like MA sidewalks are. The court in 1983 ruled that the part of the buffer zone law around the Supreme court that extended their buffer zone to the public sidewalks was itself unconstitutional. This ruling is consistent with that one.
a limited constitutional right to succeed in having close, one-on-one encounters with patients
Maybe I'm completely blinded by my side of the issue and I am no lawyer, but can that be so?


Yes.

If I have a Constitutional right to get into peoples' faces and express my ideas, look out people on cell phones in movies

Not a public forum as streets and sidewalks are.

people in church who don't like being farted on

Also not a public forum.

What happens if someone decides to counsel the abortion protesters right there on the same sidewalk? Do they have just as strong a right to let the protesters know that they don't have to harass women?

Yes.
posted by Jahaza at 1:55 PM on June 26 [7 favorites]


I was reading @ClinicEscort this morning and getting extremely bummed about the stories that she or he was telling under the #notcounseling hashtag. Super upsetting.
posted by entropone at 1:57 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Before reacting, it's worth remembering that this was a unanimous decision, supported by justices who support abortion rights generally. I haven't had a chance to read the decision, but the syllabus makes it seem pretty limited, leaving open a host of ways of restricting activities around clinics.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:57 PM on June 26 [8 favorites]


I just went by one of the Boston Planned Parenthoods that has a yellow line marking the buffer zone on the pavement. Thankfully only a couple of news vans were there...no protesters that I could see.
posted by msbrauer at 1:58 PM on June 26


From the first link:
Citing data by abortion foes who insist they engage only in benign counseling, the Chief Justice said they have had “far less frequent and far less success” in getting even to talk to patients personally or hand them literature since the buffer zone was imposed.
Oh, that's really too bad. Perhaps, instead of shouting insults and harassing these unfortunate women, you could stand back at a polite distance and offer them consolation and counseling in a calm voice.

So instead of the "safety bubble," women will be comforted to know there's a "polite conversation bubble" in which anyone can enter and talk to them about their poor life choices, or about their sins or something.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:58 PM on June 26 [14 favorites]


The strange thing about this is the history. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that fixed buffer zones were constitutional but floating ones were not. In 2000, it ruled that floating buffer zones were OK as well. Now fixed buffer zones are not OK. There doesn't seem to be a consistent rule here for making constitutional laws.
posted by demiurge at 2:00 PM on June 26 [10 favorites]


Before reacting, it's worth remembering that this was a unanimous decision, supported by justices who support abortion rights generally. I haven't had a chance to read the decision, but the syllabus makes it seem pretty limited, leaving open a host of ways of restricting activities around clinics.

I hope this is the case, because on the surface of it this looks like an appalling ruling that only serves to enable harassers and impede women's right to access legal healthcare.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:00 PM on June 26 [8 favorites]


A great counter-protest would be a site where pro-choice supporters pledge to give money to abortion clinics, escort groups, legal defense funds, etc. whenever there's a protest outside a clinic. Maybe it would act as a deterrent if it gained enough support.
posted by Jotnbeo at 2:01 PM on June 26 [5 favorites]


Does this mean no more "free speech zones"? Because that's always seemed unconstitutional as hell to me.
posted by vibrotronica at 2:03 PM on June 26 [9 favorites]


I feel comfortable with this finding. This issue seems very similar, to me, to the much-derided "free speech zones". If we want to combat the growing surveillance/control state, we need to take our medicine and apply the law equally.

This is an issue where we can't necessarily solve a social problem with a legal fix. Disallowing people from protesting at clinics that perform abortions is neither an effective nor ethical response.

In my mind, part of the solution to this problem is to medically normalize abortion. If more women were able to access abortion procedures at normal hospitals instead of OMG ABORTION CLINIX, the culture around this would change fast. When granny has to be wheeled past angry people with bloody-fetus signs on the way to hospice, or families have to run that gauntlet on the way back from finding out their seven-year-old has cancer, I believe the protesters will rapidly be seen as the Westboro-esque ghouls they are.
posted by threeants at 2:03 PM on June 26 [77 favorites]


Shakesville: The Truth About Buffer Zones, written by a longtime clinic escort.
posted by troika at 2:04 PM on June 26 [22 favorites]


(Now, violence at and outside abortion clinics has been and remains a real threat, and that should continue to be taken with the utmost seriousness in the presence or absence of buffer zones. Violence is not protected speech.)
posted by threeants at 2:07 PM on June 26


Also, I think it is thoroughly reasonable to expect assignation of police to these protests instead of relying solely on volunteer escorts. The government has a duty, in addition to upholding protesters' speech rights, to protect medical patients from a group that has demonstrated violence in the past. If the police have the resources to monitor student protests, they sure as hell have the resources to ensure people can safely access medical care.
posted by threeants at 2:10 PM on June 26 [19 favorites]


But this primarily affects women walking up to clinics that face public sidewalks, right? I'm just thinking of the Planned Parenthood in my city, which attracts anti-abortion protesters even though it doesn't offer abortion services. Its doors open onto a parking lot. Even if a woman were to take the bus there, she could walk from the bus stop, cross the sidewalk, and head into the parking lot rather than walking along the sidewalk. Obviously this isn't a solution for every situation, but is this what the Supreme Court wants? It just *reeks* of privilege to me.
posted by epj at 2:10 PM on June 26 [5 favorites]


But this primarily affects women walking up to clinics that face public sidewalks, right? I'm just thinking of the Planned Parenthood in my city, which attracts anti-abortion protesters even though it doesn't offer abortion services. Its doors open onto a parking lot. Even if a woman were to take the bus there, she could walk from the bus stop, cross the sidewalk, and head into the parking lot rather than walking along the sidewalk. Obviously this isn't a solution for every situation, but is this what the Supreme Court wants? It just *reeks* of privilege to me.

I don't know what the answer to this problem is, but it is an excellent point.
posted by threeants at 2:13 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


potential solution: some benevolent million/billionaire needs to buy up land around the clinics. Extend the parking lots, and lobby the city to have the bus run through the new private road they've built through that parking lot for just one stop. This is NOT without precedent, public buses run onto school campuses(which i recognize is often a public institution) and some big corporate campuses here. The second one should be the sledgehammer they use on this.

The idea being that whether you drive or take public transit to the clinic, the protesters cannot get near you as you're on private property the entire time.

Set up a fund to allow the clinics to overnight mail bus vouchers to patients. Homeless shelters hand them out here, and the county bus system itself and various support groups mail them. They get a price break on them or even get them donated. even if they have to pay, that's under $5 a person for a round trip. Make it clear in the community(hell, local radio/tv ads) "please contact us first, we'll make sure you get here safely without having to deal with any buttheads"

I realize this is "engineering solution to a social problem" sort of stuff, but so are fences, locks, and pepper spray. Creating a physical barrier between these people and the protesters is a good idea if the legal barrier no longer exists, anyways.

On preview, epj is describing the kind of entrance i'm thinking of. That isn't a problem, that's a solution. Get the front door away from facing public property, and buffer it with lots of private property.

You can create your own "free speech zone" this way.
posted by emptythought at 2:13 PM on June 26 [8 favorites]


It just *reeks* of privilege to me.

Access to abortion has always been about privilege in this country.

If you had the money and the connections, you could have an unwanted pregnancy terminated in pre-Roe days - particularly if you were upper-class. You could find a doctor who could perform the procedure, and you could pay him enough to keep the whole thing out of the public eye. Your abortion would be safe as well.

Roe wasn't technically about the legality of abortion - technically, it was about whether the hoi palloi could enjoy the same access to abortion and privacy surrounding its taking place which the elite have always enjoyed, and which they no doubt will continue to enjoy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:16 PM on June 26 [65 favorites]


threeants, please read that article from a long-time escort before talking about 'free speech'.

I have volunteered at Planned Parenthood and I have personally seen most of those tactics used, up to and including having myself and my car photographed. And our clinic didn't even provide abortion services!
posted by winna at 2:17 PM on June 26 [6 favorites]


Aggressive policing of the anti harassment and intimidation laws that are permissible under this ruling seems like the logical first step for Massachusetts in keeping the effect of this law in place, before anyone goes reconfiguring the transit system.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 2:18 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


I would love to be a clinic escort but I would very probably punch some shrieking frothing antichoice assbag within the first hour, which would be the very opposite of helpful.
posted by elizardbits at 2:18 PM on June 26 [50 favorites]


Also want to point out that if, as I suggest, abortion were more accessible in regular hospitals, protesters wouldn't be able to target patients at the entrance. They'd have no way to suspect whether any individual woman is having an abortion, going in for chemo, visiting her dying wife, having a regular yearly checkup, is a neurosurgeon, or works at the cafeteria.

(As it is, far from everyone going into most abortion-providing clinics is actually going in for an abortion, but I doubt the protesters really care.)
posted by threeants at 2:19 PM on June 26 [14 favorites]


Incidentally what would happen if someone scheduled for a procedure showed up with one of those air horn things and blasted it at protestors who tried to attack them?

aside from it being awesome i mean
posted by elizardbits at 2:19 PM on June 26 [41 favorites]


Also want to point out that if, as I suggest, abortion were more accessible in regular hospitals, protesters wouldn't be able to target patients at the entrance.

More and more regular hospitals are Catholic hospitals.

Good luck with that.
posted by winna at 2:21 PM on June 26 [10 favorites]


From the Shakesville link:

My first day, I helped shield a family from a group of protesters. One of the women in the family told the protesters to "stop harassing my daughter." The protester kept screaming at the younger woman. "You are breaking the law by harassing my daughter when I have asked you not to," her mother yelled back.

Protester: "No, I'm not!"

They will not stop harassing clients, no matter how they are asked.

posted by emjaybee at 2:21 PM on June 26 [6 favorites]


I have often wondered if it's illegal in some way (or unworkable?) for escorts to carry shields--of course you'd need one on each side (2 or 4) that block the protesters from view. I'm sure a protester would get brushed by one and claim assault.
posted by emjaybee at 2:23 PM on June 26


I've been wondering how abortion protestors would fair in stand your ground states, wouldn't a woman seeking an abortion who gets accosted on the way to the clinic have a reasonable fear of a sufficiently agressive protestor? Could they shoot the protestor dead in response?

Extreme conservative doctrines have interesting consequences when paired together.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:24 PM on June 26 [35 favorites]


Thanks winna, I hadn't checked that link out, it looks very interesting. Would you be able to summarize their finding? I plan to read it, and I'm not asking you to do all my work for me-- it just looks long and nuanced, and by the time I finish digesting it in good faith it would probably be too late to engage you in conversation here.

I am definitely highly sympathetic to safety concerns; my close relatives founded clinics that provided abortions and at which several people were killed and injured by violent protestors in the 90s. However, I suspect the root of this is a failure and misprioritization on the enforcement side, rather than a legal issue.
posted by threeants at 2:24 PM on June 26


Dang. I was working on writing up a big old FPP about this today, but hadn't yet managed to get past the deep, raw, nearly incapacitating anger that comes up whenever I so much as glanced at a quote from the petitioners. As a straight lady with a functioning womb and ovaries who believes very strongly that no one should ever have to endure an involuntary pregnancy or coerced birth, I am perpetually aware that a war is being waged against me and mine in more ways than one. I am never unaware of it, not even for a second. My blood runs cold whenever I'm faced with the fact that our already-enfeebled protections continue to be chipped away by people who will never have to fear that they may one day be forced, by law or circumstance, to carry a fetus to term against their will. Anti-choice protesters are devoted to spreading their message with peaceful quietude? Go tell it to Dr. Tiller.

Here are a few of the links I gathered, anyway: Tomorrow is Friday, which means payday for some of us. If you're lucky enough to count yourself in that group, and this decision is upsetting to you, please throw a few bucks at some of these folks, who are out there fighting on the front lines of reproductive justice every day: I need a goddamn drink.
posted by divined by radio at 2:26 PM on June 26 [54 favorites]


Ah, sorry, I'm dumb, I thought you were talking about the PhD dissertation in another link. Ha, I'm a bit embarrassed that I just by mistake asked someone to summarize a HuffPo article for me. Taking a look at it.
posted by threeants at 2:26 PM on June 26


It is possible to abuse one's rights. These protesters are abusing theirs and it's causing social friction and impinging on the quality of innocent people's lives. These assholes need to watch out because rights that people refuse to exercise responsibly have a way of turning into privileges...

Could they shoot the protestor dead in response?

Extreme conservative doctrines have interesting consequences when paired together.

Forcing people to reduce themselves to a bestial state just to protect their basic right to seek medical care might be one solution to the problem, but it's not a solution without larger costs.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:28 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


Could they shoot the protestor dead in response?

"Stand Your Ground" is constitutional. Seems like we have our answer.

Also, if buffer zones are illegal at abortion clinics, that must mean they're illegal at Catholic and Evangelical churches.

I wonder if anyone's willing to see how they like being on the receiving end of this? If you can hold up a picture of an aborted fetus at a clinic, and that's legit protest, can you hold up a picture of two monks having anal sex at a Catholic Church, and have it be legit protest of their hypocrisy?
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 2:28 PM on June 26 [19 favorites]


Assholes who called me a murderer and wanted to hand me pamphlets with photos of fetuses when I was uninsured and going to Planned Parenthood for regular, non-pregnant health care were totally uninterested in "counseling" me. They didn't care that I was going in for a wellness check. They only cared that I appeared to be a slut who was going to murder her baby. I hope they burn in hell (which doesn't exist but whatever I can still hope).
posted by rtha at 2:29 PM on June 26 [55 favorites]


Ok, you weren't talking about the HuffPo article either, I just realized. Third time's a charm... If it's not this piece from the Toast I give up on reading comprehension and communication in general.
posted by threeants at 2:30 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Read the opinion before commenting on it.

The Court did not "overturn abortion buffer zones." It held that this particular statute was unconstitutional but even went so far as to providing guidance as to how it could be made constitutional. In other words, buffer zones are ok as long as they are done correctly.

People expressing confusion or wonder about what the Court was thinking might try reading the opinion: the Justices write them in order to explain what they are doing and why. This is a moderately long one that addresses a lot of the questions I keep seeing about this ruling, as if it is some cryptic unexplained thing.
posted by dios at 2:32 PM on June 26 [11 favorites]


My cousin, as a teenager in Ohio, used to egg these kinds of protestors. Which is kinda funny in a symbolic sense. I haven't spoken to him in a while but I gather he's now a DA somewhere.
posted by Hoopo at 2:32 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


To divined by radio's excellent list, I'd like to add the DCAF. The district deals with a lot of additional political nonsense due to its location, lack of representation, etc.
posted by troika at 2:34 PM on June 26


I'll say the same thing I did about the Westboro case. This looks like harassment and intimidation to me, and we pretend it isn't because they target a class of people rather than an individual. I'm fine if we have less free speech if we stop this form of speech.

So, what about laws against voter intimidation? More of this should be fine, right? What better time for Free Speech than election day?
posted by Drinky Die at 2:35 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Assuming it's the Toast article, winna: it's a good piece but it doesn't really change my perspective on buffer zones (nor, I suspect, was it written to). Abortion protestors are by and large shitty. Escorts are doing God's work. Protestors have the right to protest peacefully on public property; simultaneously, everyone has the right to not be physically attacked.
posted by threeants at 2:36 PM on June 26


Also want to point out that if, as I suggest, abortion were more accessible in regular hospitals, protesters wouldn't be able to target patients at the entrance.


I live near and have gotten a variety of outpatient services at a hospital that I guess also provides abortions. There are sometimes protestors with really gruesome, full-color posters who try to hand out pieces of paper. Alas, as a pedestrian, I cannot take advantage of the valet parking, so I have to walk past them. It's really disturbing to try to contemplate test results and also be confronted with just the angriest of people. I can't imagine why they wouldn't have similar stations elsewhere.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:38 PM on June 26


I'll say the same thing I did about the Westboro case. This looks like harassment and intimidation to me, and we pretend it isn't because they target a class of people rather than an individual. I'm fine if we have less free speech if we stop this form of speech.

On the one hand, I totally see this logic. On the other hand, this seems very similar to the way the state seeks to dismantle various protests because, say, Black Bloc demonstrators have caused violence before. I'm not trying to create a false equivalence, but surely the legal contexts are similar. Given that violence by abortion protestors in general is a real thing, what determines a particular group of them as having crossed the line into representing a credible threat? I have no idea. Nonetheless, while I dislike abortion protestors, I don't think it would be reasonable to posit that the act of protesting at an abortion-providing clinic is an inherent threat of violence.
posted by threeants at 2:44 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


Not allowing aggressive organized protests against individual private citizens visiting the doctor or having a funeral is not a slippery slope I'm afraid of approaching.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:45 PM on June 26 [9 favorites]


I know this doesn't really have anything to do with the topic, but shouldn't it be "a unanimous decision," since "unanimous" begins with a consonant sound, not a vowel sound?
posted by enjoymoreradio at 2:51 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


No, the Court overturned that rule in a controversial 5-4 decision.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:51 PM on June 26 [10 favorites]


dios - the problem is that the measures suggested by the justices are already in place in most states. Harassment is illegal. Blocking someone's path is generally illegal. Threatening someone is illegal. But enforcing these laws require positive action my police officers to enforce - action that police offers are demonstrably loathe to take. Probably because the media will have a field day when they try to arrest gentle Aunt Emmie who is the president of the Ladies Auxiliary and spends Saturday morning screaming at women.

Buffer zones are a clear, enforceable law. They do not rely on cops with political or personal agendas to enforce.

I have no problem with the context-free assertion that people should be allowed to protest on public property. But the majority argument that "gentle counseling" should be allowed while forceful harassment is prevented in some way is an argument made from an alternate, fantasy dimension. In states without Buffer Zone Laws there is no gentle counselling. There are only the same "vociferous opponents" to abortion that stand at the edge of Massachusetts buffer zones, except now they are standing inches away from people and claiming they have a right to be there.

I believe that legislators should pass laws based on reality, and not on fantasy worlds where women on the way into an abortion clinic want to stop for a quiet tet-a-tet with a stranger holding a bloody fetus sign.
posted by muddgirl at 2:52 PM on June 26 [33 favorites]


epj: "But this primarily affects women walking up to clinics that face public sidewalks, right? I'm just thinking of the Planned Parenthood in my city, which attracts anti-abortion protesters even though it doesn't offer abortion services. Its doors open onto a parking lot. "

The Planned Parenthood in my town is in a cruddy, cruddy strip mall, and in fact the protestors (there are usually one or two) have to stay outside the strip mall parking lot on the public sidewalk. The bus stop lets off on the public sidewalk, but the protestors have no way of knowing whether a particular woman is going to Planned Parenthood or the other stuff in the strip mall (a lamp store, some sort of Jazzercise-type place ... I forget what else). Basically they stand on the sidewalk with two signs that say "PREGNANT? FREE HELP. CALL ###-####"

Abortion clinics are probably more likely than average to be stand-alone buildings, though, due to safety concerns, insurance issues, and neighboring businesses not wanting to be next to a controversial business. (Although, that suggests that perhaps lefty business owners could consciously inhabit a strip mall or medical office plaza with the intent of sharing space with Planned Parenthood to privatize and obscure the entrance area.)

emptythought: "Extend the parking lots, and lobby the city to have the bus run through the new private road they've built through that parking lot for just one stop. "

It's possibly (maybe even likely, I'm not sure) that the bus stop itself would be a public area that protestors would be allowed to access. There are cases of protestors protesting in private areas (like private college campuses or country clubs) who manage it by standing on a manhole cover the whole time, where the road is private but the SEWERS are city property so as long as they stay on the manhole they can't be evicted from the public space.

I don't know specific laws about prohibited behavior at bus stops, though.

MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch: "Also, if buffer zones are illegal at abortion clinics, that must mean they're illegal at Catholic and Evangelical churches. ... If you can hold up a picture of an aborted fetus at a clinic, and that's legit protest, can you hold up a picture of two monks having anal sex at a Catholic Church, and have it be legit protest of their hypocrisy?"

Probably not, because a picture of two dudes having anal sex would probably fall afoul of public obscenity laws.

However, if you had a church whose doors opened directly onto the city sidewalk (and not into a suburban parking campus, etc.), of course you could stand right outside it and protest away. ACT-UP (AIDS advocacy group) used to protest right outside St. Patrick's Cathedral in NYC frequently to protest Church positions on condoms and homosexuality, etc. They generally only got in trouble when they went IN the Cathedral to protest.

I have never actually heard of a church with a buffer zone, although I'm willing to believe it happens.

---

In related news, most ob/gyn practices around me are affiliated with the large Catholic hospital system ... just because it's a billion-dollar hospital, not because the doctors are particularly Catholic. The upshot of this is that they can't give abortions and there are some restrictions on their ability to provide birth control ... so they just hand THIRTY YEAR OLD MARRIED CATHOLIC WOMEN WITH TWO KIDS Planned Parenthood's phone number. I suggested to the hospital's president, when I saw him at an event, that it was possible the hospital's restrictions on reproductive care were not having the intended effect of supporting Catholic ethical teachings when they were sending Catholic moms to Planned Parenthood for routine birth control. He made a face and was basically like, Yeah no kidding.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:54 PM on June 26 [6 favorites]


Yep. Making abortion illegal in the USA means it's unavailable for anyone who can't afford to jet away for a weekend spa in another country, where such services are quietly rendered.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 2:54 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


For an example of the "quiet counseling" that the people of Massachusetts can now expect, I refer again to the above-linked excellent Shakesville piece by an experienced clinic escort in New York:

Once, the protesters managed to "herd" a patient against the clinic wall, using their own bodies and their signs to block her from leaving. As they kept screaming at her, she crumpled to the ground. The escorts forced the protesters to move away. One of the escorts used our sign to block the cameraman's view of the patient.

"Quiet counseling", my entire ass.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:00 PM on June 26 [22 favorites]


For those with a renewed interest in pitching in as clinic escorts, this page has a number of links to specific groups around the country (some of them linked previously in the thread) who coordinate volunteers.
posted by scody at 3:01 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


The Court did not "overturn abortion buffer zones." It held that this particular statute was unconstitutional but even went so far as to providing guidance as to how it could be made constitutional. In other words, buffer zones are ok as long as they are done correctly.

You're wrong. The relevant passages start on page 23: the Roberts opinion (joined by the majority of the Court) holds that buffer zones are unconstitutional because they "burden substantially more speech than necessary." Moreover, Roberts advises alternatives to buffer zones, like prosecuting obstructionist protesters and enforcing 6-foot no-approach zones around patients. The advice is that the statute can be made constitutional by removing buffer zones, which the Court argues are not narrowly tailored to advance the interests of preventing obstruction, congestion, harrassment, or violence. It's a restriction on the available legislative remedies for abortion clinics.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:01 PM on June 26 [6 favorites]


Buffer zones are a clear, enforceable law.

And buffer zones that are narrowly tailored are vaild and enforceable law. Did you read the opinion?

In states without Buffer Zone Laws

Were those states before the Court? No. It was just the Commonwealth's statute. Did you read the opinion?

I have no problem with the context-free assertion that people should be allowed to protest on public property.

Let me guess, but you do when it is anti-abortion protests? You realize that if restrictions are not content-neutral, they are even more likely to fail constitutional muster? Did you read the opinions?

I believe that legislators should pass laws based on reality

And that is exactly what the Court said: narrowly tailor your laws to fit the circumstances while conforming with the Constitution. Or, put another way, pass laws based on the reality of what is permissible in this country.

Honestly: do you think that Ginsburg, Sotomayor or Kagan would have thrown this law out if it was a close call? Because you can be sure that if they are sympathetic to your concerns and know the problems you raise. If they think this is the right ruling, maybe it would be prudent to understand their reasoning (its in the opinion).
posted by dios at 3:03 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


In a comment that actually pertains to the issue:

I haven't read the opinion yet, but this seems like an overbreadth doctrine problem. Even if the law has a legitimate purpose in banning unprotected speech (i.e. abuse), if it can be applied to restrict constitutionally protected speech, the whole law is unconstitutional. This was used all the time in overturning disturbing the peace and vagrancy statutes, which could be applied to all sorts of behavior, protected or not.

None of this is to say that there's no way to make abuse illegal, as there are categories of unprotected speech that might be used here ("fighting words" or "threats"). Furthermore, I'm pretty sure a narrower buffer zone to allow access to the door would be permitted, as denying freedom of movement by force, threat of force or intimidation is (usually) assault, and guaranteeing access of citizens to businesses is a government interest. This holding seems pretty limited, and (if I understand it properly) it's ultimately a good precedent, suggesting that limitations on speech in a public forum must be narrowly tailored, which may seem unfortunate in this instance, but is generally a pretty good rule of thumb.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 3:07 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


I'm temperamentally unsuited to be an escort or I'd be doing it. Like elizardbits, I don't think I could control my temper and I'd escalate and make things worse.

But for those who do escort, I would like to know if the suggestion she made about shields was considered and rejected, or just not considered? Can anone who has acted as an escort comment on that?

As for the fuckers on the Court, their decision has caused me to increase my monthly donation to PP.

@Dios: How about those Free Speech Zones? Are they narrowly tailored? They don't look like it to me. It appears to me that when the speech in question is Christians screaming at sluts speech is sacred, but when its dirty fucking hippies protesting the powerful speech is limited.
posted by sotonohito at 3:07 PM on June 26 [6 favorites]


Did you read the opinion? Buffer zones cannot be narrowly tailored for abortion clinics.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:08 PM on June 26


Did you read the opinion?

I actually did read the majority opinion - I haven't made my way down to the concurring opinion. I disagree with your interpretation, but I am not a lawyer. The majority opinion seems to be that it is a violation of the first amendment to restrict "petitioners" on public property. This would seem, to me, to invalidate both buffer zone laws and bubble around abortion clinics because anti-abortion advocates claim they are "petitioning" women to not have an abortion. The majority's claim is that their are other, effective laws but the ones they suggest seem ineffective based on what I have read and seen here in the South.

Let me guess, but you do when it is anti-abortion protests?

I don't believe that what anti-abortion advocates do outside of abortion clinics is "protesting." If Anti-Catholic "protestors" chased and mobbed parishoners walking into church every Sunday morning begging them not to damn their souls to hell by taking Catholic communion, I would consider a buffer zone around church doors to be a satisfactory solution. I guess that's why I'm not a Supreme Court Justice.
posted by muddgirl at 3:15 PM on June 26 [6 favorites]


You're wrong.

No, I'm not. Read Hill v. Colorado which was not over-turned. There the Supreme Court upheld 8 foot buffer zones around abortion clinics. The Majority here mentioned that they upheld buffer zones in Hill and specifically did not overturn Hill which they would have to do if they were holding that buffer zones are unconstitutional. And read the fricking holding from this case which makes it clear that is this particular statute they are over-turning. This is limited to this case. It is not a throwing out of all buffer zones.

Buffer zones can still exist. The state just has to meet the constitutional standards for them.
posted by dios at 3:15 PM on June 26 [5 favorites]


Did you read the opinion? Buffer zones cannot be narrowly tailored for abortion clinics.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:08 PM on June 26


False. See Hill v. Colorado mentioned by the Majority and the Concurrence and not over-turned or disturbed. There the Court upheld 8 foot buffer zones. 8 foot is tailored. 35 feet is not.
posted by dios at 3:17 PM on June 26


I believe Hill vs. Colorado is 8-foot buffer zones around a person, and SCOTUSblog suggests that is highly challengeable, considering that is also a pretty severe restriction on free speech (how do you petition someone if you can't come close enough to speak with them in the quiet and gentle tones that petitioners surely use?)
posted by muddgirl at 3:17 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


And buffer zones that are narrowly tailored are vaild and enforceable law. Did you read the opinion?

SCOTUSblog definitely read the opinion, and they said:

This, then, was a ruling about “buffer zones.” The Court’s main opinion did not consider the continuing validity of a prior case about anti-abortion protests, dealing with the somewhat separate issue of “bubble zones.” In its decision in 2000 in Hill v. Colorado, the Court had upheld a state law that limited close contact with persons entering or leaving an abortion clinic, by setting up a ”buffer zone” and, within that zone, making it illegal to approach a person closer than eight feet (a “bubble zone”) without that person’s consent, to engage in counseling or literature distribution.

After this new ruling, it appeared that even a “bubble zone” might be vulnerable to challenge, at least when the patient was shielded from counseling on a public sidewalk or roadway near the clinic. The Chief Justice’s approving remarks about the First Amendment right to engage in counseling in public arenas appeared to contradict some of the reasoning of the 2000 decision.

posted by rtha at 3:18 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


False. See Hill v. Colorado mentioned by the Majority and the Concurrence and not over-turned or disturbed. There the Court upheld 8 foot buffer zones. 8 foot is tailored. 35 feet is not.

Hill is not a buffer zone, as muddgirl has already explained to you. (In fact, Hill already makes this distinction, in order to distinguish the holding from Schenk.) Hill is an 8-foot restriction on unwanted physical approach, not a buffer zone. (Again, read Hill.)

You like to lecture about reading the opinions before discussing them. You should try it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:27 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


I'm unaware of the nuance between a "buffer zone" or a "bubble zone" and do not think it functionally matters (though it made be a factor in tailoring). But what I am aware of is that there is nothing in this opinion which states categorically that "buffer zones" are unconstitutional on their face. The opinion goes to great lengths to apply a legal standard to determine whether the Commonwealth has met is burden to impinge on First Amendment rights, and they found that the Commonwealth had not done so in this instance. The Court in Hill found Colorado did meet its burden. Thus the lay of the land is that they are constitutionally permissible in theory if you meet the burdens in that instance.

My problem is that a lot of people are throwing around phrases like "the Supreme Court overturned abortion buffer zones" as if the Court said "it is never ok to protect people who are getting abortions from protestors." That is what people seem to think the Court did. The Court most certainly did not do that. They did not overturn Hill despite noting that they upheld buffer zones in Hill and then going on to note that the Commonwealth departed from Hill when they extended their zones from 7 to 35 feet. There is no reason to think that if the Commonwealth would have abstained from extending it from 7 to 35 feet, the previous law would have been likewise overturned.
posted by dios at 3:27 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


I knew someone who had to terminate a very wanted pregnancy that took a sudden and unexpected turn for the worse - there was no way the baby could survive, in utero or out. That was bad enough. Having to pass the protesters didn't make it any better.

People who protest in front of abortion clinics make the world a worse place. If hell exists, they belong there.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:28 PM on June 26 [18 favorites]


I'm unaware of the nuance between a "buffer zone" or a "bubble zone"

The Court is, and makes a distinction, which seems to be that the "bubble" is around the person, not the facility, and is smaller. The grafs I quoted from the SCOTUSblog post (but didn't link, sorry).
posted by rtha at 3:31 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


What Today’s Supreme Court Ruling Means For Other Laws That Protect Clinic Patients
posted by homunculus at 3:31 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


There is no reason to think that if the Commonwealth would have abstained from extending it from 7 to 35 feet, the previous law would have been likewise overturned.

There is every reason to believe that a 7 foot buffer zone would be overturned if Massachusetts tried to use it now, because Roberts specifically says that Massachusetts should try remedies other than buffer zones.

One thing that is true is that if Massachusetts could somehow show that the more narrowly tailored remedies like arresting people for harrassment didn't work they might be able to return to the Court with buffer zones having shown that they're the only effective remedy. But that's going to take decades of failure, and basically involve a whole new Court somewhere in the distant future.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:32 PM on June 26


Ok. Timeout. There is nothing in the constitution about buffers or bubbles. The Constitution does not say buffers are bad but bubbles are allowed. The question before the Court in each of these cases is whether the restriction on the First Amendment meets the test it must meet. In so doing, the Court considers a multitude of factors. As a result, based on how some laws are drawn and based on the effects of the law, some will be constitutional and some will not. This is very different from saying that "buffer zones are unconstitutional on their face" which the Court very easily could say but did not.

If you read this thread, people are acting as if the Court said "you cannot do anything to protect people going to abortion clinics". The Court did not do say that. They did not throw out all protections and acting like they did is silly and inconsistent with the opinion itself.

Again... if you think that is what the Court was doing, do you think for a second that Sotomayor, Ginsburg or Kagan would have signed on to the majority opinion? No.
posted by dios at 3:37 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


Many have pointed out that the Supremes asserted their own court's buffer zone just a few weeks ago.

The justices don’t like Massachusetts’ buffer zones. But they’re fine with the one around the Supreme Court.
posted by homunculus at 3:38 PM on June 26


Did you read the opinion? Buffer zones cannot be narrowly tailored for abortion clinics.


Yep. Here you go:

Some localities, for example, have ordinances that require crowds blocking a clinic entrance to disperse when ordered to do so by the police, and that forbid the individ­uals to reassemble within a certain distance of the clinic for a certain period.

The Act itself contains a separate provision, subsection (e)—unchallenged by petitioners—that prohib­its much of this conduct. That provision subjects to crimi­nal punishment “[a]ny person who knowingly obstructs, detains, hinders, impedes or blocks another person’s entry to or exit from a reproductive health care facility.”

The point is you can't just keep people out of public fora for no reason. They have to do something objectionable first. That's what "narrowly tailored" means.

I disagree with your interpretation, but I am not a lawyer. The majority opinion seems to be that it is a violation of the first amendment to restrict "petitioners" on public property.

When the Court uses the word "petitioners" here, I believe in every instance they are referring solely to the appealing party in the case (i.e. the "counselors"). And I don't think this case does anything to undermine bubble zones, because those zones are based on consent of the person being spoken to, and therefore are not blanket restrictions.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 3:41 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


threeants: "I feel comfortable with this finding. This issue seems very similar, to me, to the much-derided "free speech zones". If we want to combat the growing surveillance/control state, we need to take our medicine and apply the law equally."

Tell that to SCOTUS.

2/16/14: Supreme Court says Pentagon can bar protesters
Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously upheld the Pentagon's right to exclude protesters from military bases, even while allowing easements and exceptions for highways and other civilian uses. The 9-0 opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, was based on a federal law and not the First Amendment claims of John Dennis Apel, a previously expelled vandal who argued he had a right to demonstrate in an authorized protest zone.
5/27/14: Supreme Court shuts out anti-Bush protesters
The Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously rejected a lawsuit brought by anti-Bush protesters who claimed the Secret Service violated the First Amendment in 2004 by moving them away from President George W. Bush while allowing pro-Bush demonstrators to remain closer to him.
6/26/14: Supreme Irony? Court Has Own Buffer Zone
The U.S. Supreme Court, which Thursday struck down a Massachusetts law that established a 35-foot buffer around abortion clinics, enjoys its own protest-free zone. A federal law bars protests from the white marble plaza of the U.S. Supreme Court building, an irony that was not lost on supporters of abortion rights.
posted by Rhaomi at 3:43 PM on June 26 [11 favorites]


Incidentally what would happen if someone scheduled for a procedure showed up with one of those air horn things and blasted it at protestors who tried to attack them?

I'm actually curious now as to whether or not it would be legal to go to an abortion clinic protest and just blow an air horn whenever the shitheads start yelling.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:49 PM on June 26 [5 favorites]


Probably legal, unless there are noise ordinances and the like in the jurisdiction. Also check out disturbing the peace statutes and disorderly conduct statutes.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 3:53 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


From that "The Truth about Buffer Zones" article:
And a lot of the lawbreaking we witness is ephemeral. Sure, one protester has consistently been standing right in front of clients and trying to stop them from reaching the door, but if the police aren't there to witness it, we're not sure we're going to get anywhere by calling them.
Don't the clinics have cameras going, aimed at the likely spots? Don't the escorts have wearable cameras? Can't the recorded video and audio be used as evidence?
posted by Flunkie at 3:57 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


I bet those hobbyiest-drones wouldn't have any trouble at all carrying and activating an air horn.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:59 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


I've been a clinic escort and I have friends who are still doing that work. If I had good enough health, I'd go sign up to do it again, but unfortunately I don't. The people who think this is "sidewalk counseling" and not yelling and screaming harassment are sadly mistaken.

Also someone upthread asked about shields. That's a nice idea, but I'm almost certain the security at the clinic I volunteered with would have rejected it on the grounds that protestors were likely to throw themselves at any shields, claim injury, and try to press charges or sue. Also it wouldn't have shut up the guy yelling at every patient that there were not one, not two, not three, but THIRTY FOUR studies linking abortion to breast cancer. (He was lying and/or the studies were false. There is no link.)
posted by immlass at 4:05 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


I'm actually curious now as to whether or not it would be legal to go to an abortion clinic protest and just blow an air horn whenever the shitheads start yelling.

I am sooo going to do this the next time these fucking shitbags show up at our local PP clinic, legality be damned.
posted by Token Meme at 4:06 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't the aggressive behavior of the "protestors" make for the perfect opportunity for anyone to press charges for harassment? As described in the Shakesville link the protestors are going after anyone who gets near the clinic. All it would take is someone walking down the street on a phone call / video chat and a protestor who doesn't back off.
posted by nathan_teske at 4:09 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


wouldn't a woman seeking an abortion who gets accosted on the way to the clinic have a reasonable fear of a sufficiently agressive protestor?

Depends on what aggressive means here. If they're just protesting obnoxiously and shouting? No, of course not.
posted by jpe at 4:26 PM on June 26


Yeah, "sufficiently aggressive" is a conveniently vague phrase.
posted by Justinian at 4:34 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


Stand your ground.
posted by sfts2 at 4:42 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


I'm actually curious now as to whether or not it would be legal to go to an abortion clinic protest and just blow an air horn whenever the shitheads start yelling.

I am sooo going to do this the next time these fucking shitbags show up at our local PP clinic, legality be damned.


Wouldn't an intermittent air horn be awfully disruptive to the people inside the clinic (the workers and patients), as well as everyone else in immediate area? Tread carefully.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:45 PM on June 26


The justices don’t like Massachusetts’ buffer zones. But they’re fine with the one around the Supreme Court.

Wrong, as I already pointed out upthread. The Supreme Court ruled the law prohibiting protests on the sidewalks around the Supreme Court unconstitutional in 1983, upholding then as they did today the role of the sidewalk as a public forum for the expression of opinion.
posted by Jahaza at 5:46 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


Not allowing aggressive organized protests against individual private citizens visiting the doctor or having a funeral is not a slippery slope I'm afraid of approaching.

Or attending a meeting? Going to work? Speaking at a college? This slope is a lot slipperier than the average.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:50 PM on June 26


Many years ago, before Colorado created their buffer (or bubble) zone statute, the Denver gay bike club and and lesbian motorcycle riders made safety corridors for people entering clinics, once a month, I think. We'd park our bikes lengthwise wheel to wheel and then sit on them facing outward, in our full riding gear, patches, and helmets/goggles. They'd scream at us, but of course couldn't see our faces/eyes through our dark visors or eye protection. Occasionally we'd remind them not to touch the bikes... or else you know what happens to people who touch bikes without permission.

Turns out protesters are bullies who are scared of people in leather. The funny part is they seemed unaware we were all faggots and dykes! Unfortunately we'd would have rather been riding, but it seemed fair to help women after all the things we did for (mostly men) with HIV.
posted by Dreidl at 5:51 PM on June 26 [43 favorites]


The Constitution does not say buffers are bad but bubbles are allowed.

Right. John Roberts said that, in the majority decision. Did you read it?
posted by anotherpanacea at 6:05 PM on June 26


Wouldn't an intermittent air horn be awfully disruptive to the people inside the clinic (the workers and patients), as well as everyone else in immediate area? Tread carefully.

Good point, although I have a hard time seeing how it would be any more disruptive than their inane chanting and holier-than-thou admonitions. That said; yeah, probably a bad idea. I just can't abide these assholes, anymore. I really do wish them physical harm. They're horrible human beings.
posted by Token Meme at 6:07 PM on June 26


...To elaborate on this point, [the opinion] cites several other laws that it presumably would uphold, seemingly because they punish particular types of conduct rather than barring everybody within a certain distance. Punishing “harassment,” for example, would be permissible. It cites as an example a New York City law that creates a protected zone of 15 feet, but specifically prohibits “follow[ing] and harass[ing]” another person within that protected distance. If it wanted to protect against physical violence, the court suggests it could pass a law similar to the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994 (FACE Act), which punishes ‘physical obstruction,” “injury,” and “intimidation.”


...While McCullen will prevent Massachusetts and other states from using what they have determined is the most effective means to protect people entering these clinics, one thing that is clear from the rhetoric of the four concurring justices is that this ruling is about as narrow as one could reasonably expect from the current U.S. Supreme Court. In one of the concurring opinions, Justice Antonin Scalia lamented that even today’s ruling invalidating Massachusetts’ law on narrow grounds “carries forward this Court’s practice of giving abortion-rights advocates a pass when it comes to suppressing the free-speech rights of their opponents.”


--ThinkProgress

Yeah, I'm okay with this.
posted by magstheaxe at 6:09 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


Or attending a meeting? Going to work? Speaking at a college? This slope is a lot slipperier than the average.

I'm yawning so hard that about 75% of the people who read this comment will also begin yawning.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:17 PM on June 26 [7 favorites]


Whoa, I just did yawn.
posted by homunculus at 6:31 PM on June 26 [6 favorites]


Like Metroid Baby's friend, I recently terminated a long anticipated and very much wanted pregnancy for medical reasons. It was every bit as gut wrenching as you'd imagine. Although abortion is legal in my country, my local hospital does not do them past the first trimester, so I had to travel some distance to another city.

I was glad, because there are always protesters outside my local hospital (it's legal for them to protest but they have to stay outside the bubble zone). They stand the minimum legal distance away, on a very major road, and are very visible. But I didn't see any protesters outside the hospital where I had my abortion-the layout makes it impossible for them to be anywhere near that part of the facility.

I think I would have had a fucking breakdown if my husband and I had had to go past screaming, hateful protesters on basically the worst day of our lives. I think someone would have had to pull my husband off any of them who got in my face.

But I don't think I personally deserve an exemption from hatefulness just because my abortion was for medical reasons. No one should have to face such a thing. I believe women have the right to choose for any reason, not just medical. I believed it before I got pregnant, I believed it when I was (so happily) pregnant, I still believe it now that I no longer am. Abortion clinic escorts are good, good people shielding women from shame and abuse.

I don't know what I'll do the next time I see a protester outside my local hospital. It will be hard not to punch them in the face.
posted by Secret Sockdentity at 6:32 PM on June 26 [34 favorites]


Harrassing private citizens in the street is not political protest. Petitioners need someone with legal authority to petition. Ignorantly hassling and threatening complete strangers who may already be going through an incredibly painful and private medical problem is just dark ages level mob rule.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:39 PM on June 26 [11 favorites]


wouldn't a woman seeking an abortion who gets accosted on the way to the clinic have a reasonable fear of a sufficiently agressive protestor?

Depends on what aggressive means here. If they're just protesting obnoxiously and shouting? No, of course not.


The Florida stand your ground statute (which is the only test case I know of) states:

(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.

So we're talking about preventing "death or great bodily harm" or "commission of a forcible felony". Felon battery has the same "great bodily harm" language. Also, "forcible felony is defined as:

“Forcible felony” means treason; murder; manslaughter; sexual battery; carjacking; home-invasion robbery; robbery; burglary; arson; kidnapping; aggravated assault; aggravated battery; aggravated stalking; aircraft piracy; unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb; and any other felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual."

So, at least in Florida, if a protester threatened physical violence, stand your ground could apply. So blaze away, it's perfectly legal. At least in Florida. Where you can't really get an abortion anyway. And you should probably be white before you tried it.

Also, the fact that such a response is potentially legally viable is *insane*. I'm clearly not advocating it as an actual option, much less a policy solution. Just pointing out a logical extension of two right wing policies, and how those two things could produce results that I very much doubt their sponsors would have considered, or would fit their political worldview if employed.

I highly doubt we'll see a test case on this (and affirmatively am not suggesting someone actually try it), the abortion rights advocates are not the ones who have traditionally resorted to violence in defense of their position. In stark opposition to their opponents.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:00 PM on June 26 [7 favorites]


When the Court uses the word "petitioners" here, I believe in every instance they are referring solely to the appealing party in the case (i.e. the "counselors").

You're probably right. As I said, I'm not a lawyer and the law-talk flew over my head. You can feel free to replace every bit of "petition" in my comments with "counsel" - I believe they are still reflective of my interpretation.

The fundamental disconnected between me and the majority opinion is summed up at the end:
Petitioners wish to converse with their fellow citizens about an important subject on the public streets and sidewalks
I completely disagree that this is the wish of Operation Rescue.
posted by muddgirl at 7:07 PM on June 26 [8 favorites]


Some of the outrage here aimed at the court would be better aimed at Coakley and the attendant police departments. From the opinion, her arguments were stunningly weak and the lack of injunctions, arrests and prosecutions really did weigh heavily against the contention that the previous law was inadequate.

A couple other things:

1) It did seem a little odd that the court defended lauded as a virtue that one can't get away from people hassling you on a public street.

2) Really, a lot of the problem does seem like it could be remedied through adequate enforcement of existing laws. It's a crime to impede people's access, even if that's not the intent of the accused. And it's also illegal to solicit on public throughways, including roads and sidewalks. That seems like the bulk of the bad activity there.

3) A fundamental problem for people who support reproductive freedom is that the restrictions we want — or at least, I want — are not content neutral at their base without a massive redefinition of harassment. I'd have no problem with someone outside a clinic talking about how great abortions are and how much they enjoyed having them. But I do have a problem with anti-abortion protesters putting their skeeve and hate on women going in.

4) This does highlight a problem between what might be called (I'm sure there are better terms, but this is off the cuff) formal equality and progressive egalitarianism. As is noted in many "free speech" discussions, e.g. Hospitality and Jerks, the commitment to "free speech" means that women (and other minorities) end up excluded through implicit norms. A formally equal free speech solution does leave women disproportionately harmed by the freedom of assholes to berate them for getting health services.
posted by klangklangston at 7:27 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


I completely disagree that this is the wish of Operation Rescue.

Exactly. I've discussed my experience defending clinics against Operation Rescue in the '80s and '90s before, and I witnessed first-hand that their objective is to terrorize women seeking medical care, and to traumatize anyone accompanying them, including actual living, breathing children, who they allegedly care so much about.
posted by scody at 7:34 PM on June 26 [8 favorites]


@klang, I think point 2 is the most significant.

The fact is that most police are not even slightly interested in defending the clinics and the women at those clinics and are in fact most likely to be very supportive of the anti-choice protesters. Which is why you almost never see the protesters who are into stalking, threats, harassment, etc actually arrested and tried for anything.

Take the oft linked Rude Pundit piece in response to this, wherein the Pundit (jokingly) suggests that people should take advantage of this ruling to stand on sidewalks in front of anti-choice activist churches and engage in behavior similar to what the "sidewalk councilors" do. Screaming, holding posters with revolting imagery, using threats and intimidation (we know where you live, we know where you work), doing our best to physically block entrances to the church without *technically* blocking the entrance, etc.

Can you imagine for even a moment that the police wouldn't be there arresting such protesters? Probably with a bit of a kicking around thrown in as a bonus? Do you imagine the prosecutors wouldn't aggressively push all the charges they could load on? Any group that tried anti-abortion tactics on a church would find all of their members arrested, injured while "resisting arrest", and a long prison sentence waiting them.

You're quite right in your assessment that if existing laws prohibiting harassment and so forth were fairly enforced it'd solve a lot of problems. But they aren't, and they won't be. A simple law that requires no police judgement, no prosecutor decision of intent or whatever, like a buffer zone can be much more easily enforced. Which is exactly why Roberts et al hate such laws, they render the anti-choice bullies somewhat less effective. Why Sotomayor, Kegan, and Ginsberg sided with Roberts is beyond me. It just shows how very non-liberal the supposedly liberal wing of the Court really is.

And, of course, violations of the buffer zone can be followed up by the clinic. Harassment charges and whatnot require the woman seeking abortion to be willing and able to press charges, show up at court to testify, etc.

I suppose we'll have to wait for the next round of killings before the so-called liberal branch of the court acts, if they ever will. And I have no doubt at all that the next round of killings will come sooner or later. The anti-choice crowd rightly perceives this as a victory for their side and they will be emboldened to act now that they're convinced the Court has their back.

I'm especially disturbed and horrified that the Court ruled that it was Very Important for religious harassers to be able to get close to their victims. Heaven, and the SCOTUS, forbid that they are limited to screaming insults from a bit of distance, now they can get right up in front of the woman they want to harass so as to be extra intimidating and scary.
posted by sotonohito at 8:14 PM on June 26 [10 favorites]


It will be, um, interesting to see how the court rules (and what the reactions are to the ruling) on Hobby Lobby (previously). A friend/co-worker whose work has focused a lot on that case recently has nearly developed a twitch this month, what with the waiting for the decision.
posted by rtha at 8:28 PM on June 26


@rtha: I'm being pessimistic on the Hobby Lobby case. Conventional wisdom says it comes down to Kennedy, the assumption being that Ginsberg, Kagan, Sotomayor and Breyer are votes against Hobby Lobby, and Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas are votes for. Until today I'd have said that sounds about right, but after today I'm none to certain that the "liberal" four will actually vote against Hobby Lobby.

But assume that it breaks 4/4 with Kennedy being the deciding vote the way the CW says.

I still think Hobby Lobby will win. During oral arguments Kennedy seemed very much on the side of Hobby Lobby. And previously he's explicitly endorsed the idea that woman are too stupid to manage their own reproductive health. I'm betting Kennedy will vote with the conservatives and hand Hobby Lobby a victory.

I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think I will be. Guess we'll find out on Monday.

This article was the one that convinced me we'd lose the Hobby Lobby case because Kennedy is switching to the anti-choice side: http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2014/03/25/3418675/justice-kennedy-thinks-hobby-lobby-is-an-abortion-case-thats-bad-news-for-birth-control/
posted by sotonohito at 8:36 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


I'm still fascinated by the statement from Roberts that the belief that something is abortion, regardless of whether or not something actually is abortion, should make that person exempt from a law that would make them pay for abortion.

By that logic can't I get out of paying for taxes by arguing that I hold the firm religious belief that war is abortion? Or that the police are abortion? Or that highways are abortion? Roberts explicitly said that reality did not matter, only that the person in question believes X to be abortion.

Heck, can't I say I believe that anti-abortion protesters are abortion and get out of today's ruling?
posted by sotonohito at 8:44 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


Regarding the Hobby Lobby case, I've heard many arguments that a win for HL would be a ruling that hurts businesses:

1) one of the advantages of incorporation is that the business owners are removed from the liabilities that come with running a business and that a win for HL would be the start of removing those protections

2) it would be a complete mess to decide the religions of companies. If a company is publicly traded, how do you decide the religion of the company? Is it the majority religion of the shareholders? Do you have to vote on which beliefs you would pick and choose to enforce in your business practices? If a bank decides it it's Christian, are they allowed to charge interest on loans?

Real corporations that just want to make money don't want to have to deal with this and, I may be mistaken but, I think some business groups have filed briefs asking the court to rule against HL.

I guess the question will be which court will win out, the socially conservative one or the pro-business one.
posted by LizBoBiz at 9:01 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


It's incredibly shitty to harass women who are going to a medical appointment. And I think these anti-choice protests should be subject to the heaviest legally permissible surveillance and monitoring, since anti-abortion protesters have committed violence in the best. And there is, wherever it may be, a line at which protesting becomes an illegal threat. But I don't think "harassment"-- if this has a more general meaning of vocally being rude to someone-- should necessarily be illegal. Harassment can be a viable, and maybe essential, political action! If people want to stand on the sidewalk outside a R*dskins game and "harass" fans wearing racist apparel, they should not be subject to a buffer zone. It amazes me the extent to which many seem to feel that people with terrible views shouldn't have equal rights of expression under the law.
posted by threeants at 9:08 PM on June 26 [2 favorites]


It's not like there's some sort of Legitimate Views reference book you can pull off the shelf of a legal library, flip to the appropriate page, and see:

Abortion, extreme opposition to. Illegitimate (see note on page 259)
posted by threeants at 9:12 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


"You're quite right in your assessment that if existing laws prohibiting harassment and so forth were fairly enforced it'd solve a lot of problems. But they aren't, and they won't be. A simple law that requires no police judgement, no prosecutor decision of intent or whatever, like a buffer zone can be much more easily enforced. Which is exactly why Roberts et al hate such laws, they render the anti-choice bullies somewhat less effective. Why Sotomayor, Kegan, and Ginsberg sided with Roberts is beyond me. It just shows how very non-liberal the supposedly liberal wing of the Court really is."

Because, as they say in the decision, non-enforcement of the laws can't really be remedied by creating new law that's easier to enforce.

Something that would probably have helped enforcement is to get the state to pay for surveillance cameras of the protestors.

But two things were important facts in the case: First, that Coakley could only really justify the statewide law based on a once per week rally outside of a single clinic in the state. And even with that, couldn't show any real prosecutions. Secondly, Coakley didn't contest things like claims that the buffer zone had seriously decreased the effectiveness of the petitioners' efforts. She also failed to distinguish between the petitioner's claims of methods and the broader harms — by claiming that they were doing "counseling," the petitioners distinguished themselves from the aggressive protestors, and it doesn't appear that was effectively rebutted. It's certainly something that you and other commenters here aren't distinguishing; the conflations here are rampant. That's pretty justified based on the actual effects of the protestors, but by failing to address that effectively left a huge hole for the petitioners to drive through.

I also think that something we and the Commonwealth share — that it's extremely shitty to hassle women with anti-abortion bullshit around the clinic — is also part of the problem. That's not a viewpoint neutral defense, which leads them to overcompensate with a reliance on things like the statute preventing congestion on the streets. There are much easier ways to prevent congestion than a 35-foot buffer zone.

I also think it's worth paying attention to what the Court actually says: "The tailoring requirement does not sim­ply guard against an impermissible desire to censor. The government may attempt to suppress speech not only because it disagrees with the message being expressed, but also for mere convenience. Where certain speech is associated with particular problems, silencing the speech is sometimes the path of least resistance."

The state did a terrible job demonstrating that they'd actually tried any other methods, and passing more laws is not a remedy to existing laws not being enforced.

Even as it attempts to achieve results I would agree with, this law was bad law, and it was defended poorly. At least to my non-lawyer eyes.
posted by klangklangston at 9:17 PM on June 26 [4 favorites]


A fundamental problem for people who support reproductive freedom is that the restrictions we want — or at least, I want — are not content neutral at their base without a massive redefinition of harassment. I'd have no problem with someone outside a clinic talking about how great abortions are and how much they enjoyed having them.

I would have a huge problem with pro-abortion advocates crowding women going into an OB practice and repeatedly insisting that they listen to their spiel on how they should abort the specific baby they are carrying. More realistically, let's pass a law that creates a buffer zone around so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers. That's fine. People who protest at CPCs seem perfectly happy to stand and hold their signs and not get in the faces of women seeking health care.
posted by muddgirl at 9:20 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Heck, can't I say I believe that anti-abortion protesters are abortion and get out of today's ruling?

Well...erm...no. Because the whole point of Hobby Lobby is that these employers are being forced to pay for what they consider abortion. I really hope the Court comes down against Hobby Lobby, but let's be sure to acknowledge what it's actually about. It's not "I don't believe in this, so let's get rid of it," it's "I don't believe in this, so you can't make me support it." It's not a good argument, but it's not as patently ridiculous as you make it seem.

While we're talking Hobby Lobby, the only argument to be made by the company is on the basis of RFRA. The court made perfectly clear in Employment Division v. Smith that broadly applicable laws don't implicate the First Amendment. But RFRA overrides this with regard to federal law, requiring the pre-Smith standard be used. I don't think a RFRA argument is a good one, because corporations exist as external constructs from the identities of their owners and operators. Even if we accept a decision strongly in favor of corporate personhood, like Citizens United, it is unreasonable to say that corporations can hold sincere religious beliefs, or that they engage in religious practices. To do otherwise sets a precedent that the corporation is a fictional veneer for its operators, and undermines the limited-liability regime that is the benefit of incorporation. Too many bad legal consequences no matter what the logic of the court if they rule for Hobby Lobby.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 9:23 PM on June 26


Maddow has a really good show tonight about the history of abortion "protests" and attacks. Video, citations.
posted by Evilspork at 9:31 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


I think there is a meaningful difference between a buffer zone for a building (which seems generally to be what the ruling concerns) and one for a person, and that may be causing some talking-past here. I would say that certainly at a given distance to another human, a protester's expression rights are subsumed by their physical threateningness. Personally I think people should have the right to shout hostile things at each other, but should not have the right to draw someone in for an arm's-length "discussion" about something. I think a lot of folks are referring to this latter type of situation, and if that's the case, I am in agreement.
posted by threeants at 9:38 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


According to Maddow, the previous law put the buffer around the person, The personal buffer did not move with the person, it only prevented people from approaching a stationary person. So abortion protesters just stood in the doorway and blocked people from entering a clinic. I don't know why this wasn't a prosecutable offense.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:43 PM on June 26 [3 favorites]


passing more laws is not a remedy to existing laws not being enforced.

At least for the past 40 years, that is not how our country has worked. Also, there have been examples in the past of more laws successfully remedying the failure of certain states/localities to enforce other laws.
posted by wierdo at 9:43 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


From the same jurisdiction? There are plenty of federal laws that have remedied lack of local enforcement, and I'd wager that there are plenty of state to county/city level examples of the same thing. But even then, that's the exception rather than the rule, and in any event that's not an argument that in this particular case the law was necessary.
posted by klangklangston at 10:02 PM on June 26


Well...erm...no. Because the whole point of Hobby Lobby is that these employers are being forced to pay for what they consider abortion. I really hope the Court comes down against Hobby Lobby,

But sotonohito's point was that things Hobby Lobby "considers" to be abortion just aren't, and they are asking for the benefit of the doubt - if they "consider" it abortion (even when it isn't!) then they should not have to pay for it. It's not (simply) that they're saying they shouldn't have to pay for a thing the object to (which is a bullshit argument, frankly), but that it shouldn't matter if their definition is accurate or not - if they believe it to be the objectionable thing, then it is (even if it isn't) and they shouldn't have to pay for it.
posted by rtha at 10:12 PM on June 26 [5 favorites]


Here's a what-if-this-or-that brief about the Hobby Lobby decision (with a flow chart!), and a webcast briefing/discussion and transcript and an issue brief about the cases.

Usual disclaimer: I work at this place but not on the policy side and don't write or research.
posted by rtha at 10:25 PM on June 26


"According to Maddow, the previous law put the buffer around the person, The personal buffer did not move with the person, it only prevented people from approaching a stationary person. So abortion protesters just stood in the doorway and blocked people from entering a clinic. I don't know why this wasn't a prosecutable offense."

It was a prosecutable offense. The state of Massachusetts says 1) it's too widespread to prosecute, and 2) substantial video and surveillance evidence exists demonstrating people breaking the laws and that the police know who these people are. Coakley is the Attorney General of Massachusetts — surely if she sees identifiable people breaking the law, then she can get a prosecutor to go after them.

She gave the court terrible, contradictory arguments for why this law was constitutional. The court was overly credulous about the "sincere counseling" that the petitioners engage in, but it doesn't look like Coakley contested that at all. Probably because she knew she couldn't go too far down that road without veering off the "viewpoint neutral" test.

I don't know how Coakley is for an AG since I don't live there, but the last time I remember her making national news, it was for losing Ted Kennedy's seat to a puffed up bro with Cosmo nude clips. It looks like she gave a half-ass defense of a borderline law and lost even the liberal wing.
posted by klangklangston at 10:26 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


it's too widespread to prosecute

That just means they don't want to prosecute it even selectively. Cf: pot laws in various states where it's still illegal.
posted by immlass at 10:28 PM on June 26


Coakley's a former AD and can appoint prosecutors. If she wanted to do it, she could. At the very least, you're arguing that the same woman nominally arguing for the law was also uninterested in prosecuting the behavior she's willing to testify was illegal.
posted by klangklangston at 10:32 PM on June 26


At the very least, you're arguing that the same woman nominally arguing for the law was also uninterested in prosecuting the behavior she's willing to testify was illegal.

I don't see any contradiction between a lawyer admitting to the plain meaning of a statute and the same person in their position as a state official finding it undesirable for whatever reason to enforce the law. They're two separate things. I don't know anything about Coakley, but I live in Texas and my state AG's attitude toward abortion rights is utterly hostile. He might well have to admit it's legal to obtain an abortion while doing everything in his power to make it impossible for a woman to exercise that right.
posted by immlass at 10:49 PM on June 26 [1 favorite]


Yeah, but:

1) Coakley's not a Texas conservative, she's a Massachusetts liberal. And she testified as an AD in 2007 in favor of the legislation. She's not opposed to enforcing previous laws.

2) That still doesn't make the underlying law a constitutional one.

In fact, that the law was a bad one is one of the reasons that Coakley isn't taking more heat. Contra my carping, she actually got the best outcome that anyone could have predicted with this law: A ruling that holds buffer zones to be content neutral.
posted by klangklangston at 1:56 AM on June 27


So abortion protesters just stood in the doorway and blocked people from entering a clinic. I don't know why this wasn't a prosecutable offense.

Because enforcing laws against protestors is something that is nearly only applicable to left-wing protestors.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:20 AM on June 27 [5 favorites]


I have often wondered if it's illegal in some way (or unworkable?) for escorts to carry shields--of course you'd need one on each side (2 or 4) that block the protesters from view. I'm sure a protester would get brushed by one and claim assault.

I find this idea fascinating because it reminds me of the Romaine Patterson "Angel Action" method of shielding the Westboro Baptist Church protesters with giant angel wings.

I actually had the "method of shielding brushes protester" thing happen with the WBC when they came to Albuquerque back in my teen years; they yelled that I was assaulting them and threatened me but never actually did anything about it. Given the WBC's history, I'm guessing if that kind of thing could hold any water in court they would've sued my pants off.
posted by NoraReed at 3:19 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


It's weird to see having police monitor the protestors and arresting people who say the wrong things suggested by people who consider the buffer zone an unconstitutional restriction on speech. Isn't "Say what you want, but back up a bit to give the targets some space?" less of a restriction on speech?
posted by Drinky Die at 4:08 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


It's weird to see having police monitor the protestors and arresting people who say the wrong things

The legal issue is not with the content of the protestors' speech, which outside of certain very narrow constraints may not be regulated, but with the way in which the anti-choice movement has made assault and battery a routine part of getting their way, the way in which they feel entitled to violate the rights of others without fear of prosecution or sanction.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:18 AM on June 27 [4 favorites]


Verbal abuse and threats is what I'm thinking of. Police can act on things like that and will if they are watching. If the protestors are just backed up behind a line and people take the more anything goes approach they have a wider range of speech available. Not any particularly valuable speech worth protecting, but when we are talking about American free speech absolutism, hey more is better.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:24 AM on June 27


Don't union strikers have to do things like not block the driveway and leave enough room for a person to pass between them? Where did those rules come from?
posted by michaelh at 5:36 AM on June 27


@michaelth: the fact that striking workers endanger the profits of People Who Matter. And that they can be viewed as a subset of Dirty Fucking Hippies. Ticking off the PWM is always against the law, and doubly so if you're a DFH.

Since the people protesting abortion clinics are, by definition, Good Upstanding Christian Citizens, and their actions don't threaten the profits of PWM, their free speech is vigilantly protected. Even to the point where they can basically blockade the entrance to the clinics and not be prosecuted, and now explicitly by this court ruling to the point where their right to stand in front of a woman and shower her with spittle as they scream threats at her. Roberts went out of his way to say that it was very important that anti-choice bullies be legally permitted and encouraged to get right up in the faces of pregnant women so they can scream abuse at them.

The two tiered system of justice in America is on full display here. Some people matter more than others, and thus their speech is more important than others. Dirty Fucking Hippies, and striking union workers very much count as DFH's in the eyes of the law, are subhuman vermin and thus complaints about their free speech being violated are purely irrelevant, the police will use overwhelming force to shut them up and that's just fine. So of course there are very strictly enforced laws requiring them to stay away from factory entrances and whatnot. But to expect that law to cover Good Christian People witnessing for the Lord to sluts is absurd. One group matters, the other group doesn't.
posted by sotonohito at 5:52 AM on June 27 [10 favorites]


So abortion protesters just stood in the doorway and blocked people from entering a clinic. I don't know why this wasn't a prosecutable offense.

It is. The law also, though, banned just sitting there with a sign. And that part of the law was struck down.
posted by jpe at 6:05 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


A law banning abortion protesters from blocking driveways and requiring them to leave room for people to pass between them would pretty clearly pass muster under this decision.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:10 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


It's tempting to think this is reasonable. Free speech, right? Then I tried this thought experiment:

Imagine the anti-vaxxers get way more militant. They start showing up in big groups with signs and stuff outside pediatricians' offices. I need to take my kid to get vaccinated. We make our way through a threatening, screaming crowd. "You're killing your children!" "God will punish you!" My kid pees her pants in fear. We make our way inside, shaken but luckily ok.

Perfect analogy? No. But people are trying to access a legal service and are being intimidated. Free speech is not without limits. It needs to be balanced against other rights like everything else. Given the history of violence I just don't see how having to be 35 feet away is some kind of big problem. I've been to PP clinics for various reasons throughout my life and thank goodness, there were no protestors. I can only imagine how angry and scared I would have been.
posted by freecellwizard at 6:31 AM on June 27 [5 favorites]


People in labor actions are targeting their own bosses and their own places of employment. They are, in the old fashioned constitutional language, "petitioning for a redress of grievances" directly with the people in the best position to remedy their grievances. These jerks are targeting random private citizens who individually have no more direct influence over the public policies these people oppose than they do themselves.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:36 AM on June 27 [1 favorite]


Klang, none of what your saying changes the bullshit nature of Coakley's comment that "it's too widespread to prosecute". What that means is it's not a law enforcement priority to ticket or arrest offenders and it's not a DA priority to prosecute those charged with breaking the law. Maybe that was best answer she could give because there's support for anti-choice harassers in the PDs and/or DA offices in the relevant jurisdictions. Maybe the law isn't enforced because the cops in those jurisdictions are busy with other crimes that they consider to be a higher priority. But the point is that the law exists and the fact that there are a lot of scofflaws doesn't mean the law can't be enforced even selectively.

The fact that a lot of people speed doesn't mean the cops never issue tickets; the fact that a lot of people use pot doesn't mean the cops never ticket or arrest for pot usage; and the fact that clinic entrance laws are routinely violated by protestors doesn't mean that a law protecting clinic entrances can't be enforced either. It's just not being enforced, or wasn't. And I would be shocked if the actual reason the cops and prosecutors weren't arresting and prosecuting violators was a high-minded concern about the civil rights of the people who are harassing patients going for medical treatment--IME, many of whom aren't even going for abortions but for regular maintenance healthcare--being violated. (People who consistently have that concern for anti-choice protestors are generally anti-choice themselves.)
posted by immlass at 7:50 AM on June 27 [6 favorites]


Uh, thanks, sotonohito, but that response sounds a little unhinged - any thoughts on the actual legal histories of these two types of protests?
posted by michaelh at 8:39 AM on June 27


So I've been reading up on the similar lawsuits here in Canada (well, BC mainly). The big case seems to be this one: R v Spratt, in 2008.

It's got a roughly 30m/100 feet buffer zone where you can't protest, sidewalk counsel, etc by any means (signs, talking, pamphlets). A pretty serious restriction. It was decided on freedom of expression grounds, much like the SCOTUS one we're talking about. The courts upheld the conviction without too much trouble.

The judge made a few good points that are relevant:
the evidence in this case demonstrated that the line between peaceful protest and virulent or even violent expression against abortion is easily and quickly crossed.
And she then talks about how a bright-line avoids the problem of subjectively determining harassment on the spot. As a practical matter, it's not going to happen (because as people said here, the cops aren't going to be on-the-spot each time). It's an actually-workable solution, rather than a theoretically less-infringing-but-impossible standard. And she quotes Hill v Colorado!

And the other one I found really interesting, and hasn't really been raised in our discussion here: that what the free-speech advocates are really asking for is the ability to have a captive audience. Due to the realities of having a clinic, the only way to protect the right to "not listen" (which is a pretty longstanding right in both Canadian and American systems) is to have a buffer zone.

It's a good decision, I would suggest that people who like the law-reading to check it out.

[As with a lot of things constitutional, my feeling is that the law was unconstitutional because the whole absolutist model of the US constitution, where a court can't come out and say "yes this is an infringement of their rights, but it's justifiable because that's the only way to protect other rights", doesn't work in complicated situations. But that's a bigger fight.]
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:53 AM on June 27 [6 favorites]


"and now explicitly by this court ruling to the point where their right to stand in front of a woman and shower her with spittle as they scream threats at her."

Dude, you're making shit up and actively degrading the conversation. The decision specifically cites other buffer zones — even the earlier one of Massachusetts — as constitutional. And harassing or impeding is still illegal.

"Klang, none of what your saying changes the bullshit nature of Coakley's comment that "it's too widespread to prosecute". What that means is it's not a law enforcement priority to ticket or arrest offenders and it's not a DA priority to prosecute those charged with breaking the law. Maybe that was best answer she could give because there's support for anti-choice harassers in the PDs and/or DA offices in the relevant jurisdictions. Maybe the law isn't enforced because the cops in those jurisdictions are busy with other crimes that they consider to be a higher priority. But the point is that the law exists and the fact that there are a lot of scofflaws doesn't mean the law can't be enforced even selectively."



You realize that's part of the reasoning of the court, right? That you can't just make bigger infringements on the first amendment because you've declined to follow through with your more narrowly tailored laws?

And yes, the attorney general saying that she has video of people clearly breaking the previous law — people who are identified by police — and she hasn't even tried to prosecute them does mean that she hasn't tried the available remedies. Inventing a chain of speculation on why it hasn't been enforced doesn't justify the AG's defense of the more expansive law. (Also recommended were civil injunctions, which again weren't tried despite Coakley claiming to have all of the necessary evidence, and civil injunctions don't have to be initiated by the state — they can be initiated by the clinics, and have been effectively in other states, including applying RICO statutes.)
posted by klangklangston at 8:55 AM on June 27


(Also recommended were civil injunctions, which again weren't tried despite Coakley claiming to have all of the necessary evidence, and civil injunctions don't have to be initiated by the state — they can be initiated by the clinics, and have been effectively in other states, including applying RICO statutes.)

You're making an argument about the Supreme Court case. I'm pointing out that the facts on the ground don't match the stupid statement the AG made, which may or may not be relevant to her failed defense of the law.

This whole thing reminds me of Chuck Rosenthal in Lawrence vs Texas. Maybe he didn't argue the case because he didn't care about the law he was defending and maybe he just made an incompetent defense of the law. For this case, I'm less concerned with the Supreme Court's standing on free speech--a right that's already eroded when it comes to actual political protest, now restricted to "free speech zones"--and more with practical conditions on the ground for women receiving health care. Whatever law is on the books to protect people exercising their right to legal health care should be enforced. Someone in the food chain is not enforcing it. The AG's statement that the law can't be enforced obscures that fact.
posted by immlass at 10:13 AM on June 27 [3 favorites]


I was reading @ClinicEscort this morning and getting extremely bummed about the stories that she or he was telling under the #notcounseling hashtag. Super upsetting.
You mean "MetaFilter's own @ClinicEscort."
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:31 AM on June 27 [2 favorites]


Verbal abuse and threats is what I'm thinking of. Police can act on things like that and will if they are watching.

Naive.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:24 AM on June 27 [7 favorites]


@klang, allow me to quote Roberts from the ruling:
While the Act may allow petitioners to “protest” outside the buffer zones, petition­ers are not protestors; they seek not merely to express their opposi­tion to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conver­sations with women about various alternatives. It is thus no answer to say that petitioners can still be seen and heard by women within the buffer zones. If all that the women can see and hear are vocifer­ous opponents of abortion, then the buffer zones have effectively sti­fled petitioners’ message.
That, right there, is Roberts arguing that the "petitioners" must have a legally granted captive audience in women seeking abortion, and that it is absolutely necessary for the first amendment rights of those "petitioners" that they be permitted to get right up close and personal with the women they wish to harass.

If that isn't Roberts not merely permitting, but actively encouraging, anti-choice bullies to get right up in the faces of women seeking abortion so they can scream abuse at them I don't know what is. Yes, he pretends that it is "personal, caring, consensual conversation[s]", but anyone who has even the most casual knowledge of the anti-choice bullies knows that what they actually **DO**, as opposed to what they claim, is scream insults and threats at pregnant women.

I find it impossible to believe that Roberts, a lifelong Catholic with a personal opposition to abortion, is unfamiliar with the typical behavior of anti-choice protesters at clinics. Here's a typical sample: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBDsocY0R6A The action starts at 0:24.

And Roberts says that the First Amendment mandates that this man not merely be free to voice his opinion, but that he be permitted to get very close to the women he's harassing in order to better shout at them.

I am not making shit up. And an 8 foot buffer zone, that IIRC doesn't move and therefore fences in the women seeking abortion not the protesters, does jack shit to keep the "sidewalk counselors" from getting within spittle spraying distance while they shriek their abuse.

This decision essentially demanded not merely that the protesters have a right to protest (which they do, and which was not impeded by the buffer zone), but that they have a right to a captive audience. That women seeking abortion must be subjected to very close, confrontational range, abuse while they endure the walk to the clinic. Assuming that the protesters actually permit her to walk to the clinic which now seems doubtful.

While Roberts tossed in the word "consensual", as a sort of asscovering word, it's clear that consent on the part of the woman seeking abortion isn't part of this.
posted by sotonohito at 11:45 AM on June 27 [10 favorites]


It might not be kosher to bring this up the Blue rather than on IRL, but I am actually going to do exactly what is suggested in goethean's link, and organize a protest of one of the churches in Massachusetts that sends busloads of protesters to Planned Parenthood clinics. I'll wait for a group vote to pick a date, but it will be a Sunday morning in July. We'll make placards, drive out to Grafton (I can probably get four people into my car, if anyone needs a ride), stand the legally-mandated 8 feet from the entrance, and harass quietly counsel anyone trying to enter a church whose resources are being used to deny women reproductive health freedom.

MeMail me if you're in!
posted by Mayor West at 12:12 PM on June 27 [5 favorites]


Verbal abuse and threats is what I'm thinking of. Police can act on things like that and will if they are watching.

Naive.


Yeah, realized I should have stuck with can after I wrote that.

And the other one I found really interesting, and hasn't really been raised in our discussion here: that what the free-speech advocates are really asking for is the ability to have a captive audience. Due to the realities of having a clinic, the only way to protect the right to "not listen" (which is a pretty longstanding right in both Canadian and American systems) is to have a buffer zone.

Thanks for putting that into words, it's part of my problem with this situation and I couldn't figure out how to say it. To me, this isn't about free speech on the public streets. It's about the nonexistent right to an audience of your choosing on the public streets.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:24 PM on June 27 [2 favorites]


Ugh about the @ thing, but it does seem you're talking at me, not too me, so perhaps that was intentional.

And there's a better passage to support your contention:
It is no accident that public streets and sidewalks havedeveloped as venues for the exchange of ideas. Even today, they remain one of the few places where a speaker can be confident that he is not simply preaching to the choir. With respect to other means of communication, anindividual confronted with an uncomfortable message can always turn the page, change the channel, or leave the Web site. Not so on public streets and sidewalks. There, a listener often encounters speech he might otherwise tune out.
However, characterizing it as "and now explicitly by this court ruling to the point where their right to stand in front of a woman and shower her with spittle as they scream threats at her" is bullshit given the ruling.

The "threats" is specifically addressed in the unchallenged portion of the statute, as is impeding ingress or egress. You're simply making shit up to support your interpretation.

"If that isn't Roberts not merely permitting, but actively encouraging, anti-choice bullies to get right up in the faces of women seeking abortion so they can scream abuse at them I don't know what is."

I'll agree that you don't know what that is, then.

"And Roberts says that the First Amendment mandates that this man not merely be free to voice his opinion, but that he be permitted to get very close to the women he's harassing in order to better shout at them."

Nope. What the court said was that the state couldn't restrict people attempting compassionate outreach. In fact, they replied to your explicit argument with: "That misses the point. Petitioners are not protestors. They seek not merely to express their opposition to abor­tion, but to inform women of various alternatives and to provide help in pursuing them."

I think Roberts is somewhat overly credulous there, but it's pretty unlikely that Kagan, Ginsburg and Sotomayor are joining a decision that "actively encourag[es] anti-choice bullies to get right up in the faces of women seeking abortion so they can scream abuse at them."

"And Roberts says that the First Amendment mandates that this man not merely be free to voice his opinion, but that he be permitted to get very close to the women he's harassing in order to better shout at them."

No, he says that a 35-foot buffer zone is an unconstitutional way to remedy that.

"I am not making shit up. And an 8 foot buffer zone, that IIRC doesn't move and therefore fences in the women seeking abortion not the protesters, does jack shit to keep the "sidewalk counselors" from getting within spittle spraying distance while they shriek their abuse."

… the decision let stand the anti-harassment and impedance portions of the law. So yeah, you're making shit up because you disagree.

And with that, I'm done.
posted by klangklangston at 12:36 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


Stitcherbeast and Jahaza, thank you for debunking a lot of the reactionary brouhaha about this decision. I want to know where the lines are, not where the polemics of "my side" say they are.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:36 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


It's not just an abstract brouhaha if you've ever actually been in the painful and undignified position of having to sneak into a clinic after dark on the way to one of your life's most traumatic moments because of these "activists" when you're already brokenhearted over a loss you never wanted or expected.

I still absolutely disagree with the idea that harassing private citizens with no special legal authority to make law or policy who are acting reasonably within their own rights is in any way, shape or form political activism. Since the decision was based on the mistaken premise that there's some kind of legitimate "political activism" (as opposed to social harassment and shaming) under consideration here, I still don't buy that the principles invoked justify the decision.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:47 PM on June 27 [7 favorites]


I didn't say it was just an abstract brouhaha.

I just said I want to know the facts, and not the outrage-filter, Facebook-worthy interpretations of this decision by people who didn't actually read the decision, which is a huge chunk of the posts here.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:53 PM on June 27


klangklangston : A couple other things:

1) It did seem a little odd that the court defended lauded as a virtue that one can't get away from people hassling you on a public street.


"Senator, what about those claims that you assaulted a minor?"
"Hey, I have a constitutional right to not be hassled on a public street!"

I'm OK with that part of the decision. Peaceable speech should not be restricted in public, generally.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:57 PM on June 27


Well, despite the nuances around the theoretical meaning of the decision, in the real world after this decision, some real people will have a harder time accessing certain clinics without other real people now being allowed to stand there, screaming into their faces. That really is a clear-eyed, reasonable assessment of the facts, too. I just don't want people to lose sight of the practical consequences of the decision regardless of whatever good or bad thinking we might also do about its abstract meaning.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:33 PM on June 27 [4 favorites]


some real people will have a harder time accessing certain clinics without other real people now being allowed to stand there, screaming into their faces.

Only if you think that the police are going to be lazy about enforcing FACE and other harassment laws.
posted by Jahaza at 1:55 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


The silver lining of this is that I and several friends are going to look into local clinics that might be in need of clinic escorts. I don't know that I have the temperament to not get into a screaming altercation, but I'm going to at least try.

Damn thin silver lining, though. Fucking hell.
posted by Phire at 1:57 PM on June 27 [2 favorites]


Only if you think that the police are going to be lazy about enforcing FACE and other harassment laws.

If you look at testimonials from clinic escorts, including that harrowing Shakesville post, you'll see that indifference at best and hostility at worst is a frequent theme in the interactions that clinics have with the police. Official law enforcement is far from a consistent positive presence.
posted by Phire at 1:59 PM on June 27 [13 favorites]


The discrepancy between the law on paper and its enforcement in the real world is of course important, but that's a separate issue from this decision as a decision. To more or less reiterate what klangklangston had said above, this decision comes from the Court interpreting the First Amendment in a fairly straightforward way. If, even after reading the decision, this decision still troubles you as a matter of law, then you should consider how the First Amendment comes from a certain ideological and historical place, for better and for worse.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:15 PM on June 27


Klang, here's a good example of the "compassionate, consensual, conversations" the anti-choice bullies want. The sort of "compassionate, consensual, conversations" that Roberts argued **MUST** be permitted to take place very close to women. http://www.shakesville.com/2014/03/the-truth-about-buffer-zones-and.html

This is reality. The fantasy of a nice person who just wants to peaceably talk to a confused woman making a horrible choice is a fantasy. It does not exist. You and Roberts can claim it exists, but it does not.

This decision was awful. It has enshrined as a sacred part of the First Amendment the right of people to get in the faces of other people and shout at them.

A 35 foot buffer zone sounds perfectly reasonable to me. The anti-choicers get to voice their position, something I would never deny them the right to do, without getting to physically intimidate women seeking abortion and without getting into their personal space.

To you and Roberts that is unacceptable. Apparently you believe that without the right to invade the personal space of women seeking abortion it is impossible for anti-choicers to express their opinions.

I don't comprehend how anyone can argue that with a straight face. I don't comprehend how you, a person I generally find reasonable and sensible, and how the four "liberal" justices of the court, who are far too authoritarian in my view but often fairly sensible, can hold the position that somehow the First Amendment means that anti-choice bullies must be given the right to invade the personal space of others in order to scream at them from very close range.

Isn't it enough that they're permitted to scream their threats and insults from a distance? The obscene and laughable lie that they seek to inform women of anything is so blatant that it'd be funny if it weren't being treated as true by the Court.
posted by sotonohito at 2:23 PM on June 27 [6 favorites]


The discrepancy between the law on paper and its enforcement in the real world is of course important, but that's a separate issue from this decision as a decision.

Ah, see, I don't believe that. We have different legal philosophies.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:27 PM on June 27 [8 favorites]


@Mayor West, I strongly suspect you'll be arrested very quickly. But I'd love to get an after action report if you do go through with it.

I'd very strongly recommend you get a streaming video upload service for your phone and record everything that happens to the cloud. Otherwise it's going to be your word against the cops (who we know lie all the time) and the Good Christian People (who I'm sure would be delighted to lie). Live upload is essential, it is known that the police delete video from phones they have confiscated if that video contradicts the lies they want to tell.

And be prepared to have the shit kicked out of you or be pepper sprayed and/or tazered. I have no doubt that the police will engage in violence against you and anyone else you manage to get to come along. The law is not on your side either figuratively or literally.

Military funerals get buffer zones, filthy sluts seeking abortion don't.
posted by sotonohito at 2:39 PM on June 27 [6 favorites]


Saulgoodman, those issues are, indeed, separate as far as the Supreme Court is concerned, with regard to what the Supreme Court actually does, and is limited in its ability to do. We would not be happy campers if the Court could generally promulgate pure policy issues, unbound by stare decisis, the Constitution, restricting its holding to the issue on appeal, etc.

Or, maybe you would like that, which is fair, but the point is that you would have to accept that you're being critical of the Supreme Court itself as an institution, and not just this one decision.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:56 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


This is reality. The fantasy of a nice person who just wants to peaceably talk to a confused woman making a horrible choice is a fantasy. It does not exist.

Except it does... the New York Times found one this morning (my emphasis):
BOSTON — Lorraine Loewen, 74, says she comes here once a week to demonstrate against abortion outside of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts health care center.

On Friday, the morning after the Supreme Court struck down restrictions that had created no-protest buffer zones near abortion clinics, she stood inside the yellow line on the pavement that marked a 35-foot radius around the clinic’s entrance.

Ms. Loewen, a retiree from Dedham, Mass., approached a woman and a man who had climbed out of a taxi and were walking toward the clinic, which provides an array of women’s health services, including abortions, and spoke softly in the woman’s ear. She handed the woman a pamphlet depicting a woman’s face and the words, “It’s your choice.”

“I asked her if we could be of any help,” Ms. Loewen said, adding that she preferred talking close up with the people going to the clinic rather than yelling at them from outside the line.

On Friday, Ms. Loewen and a handful of other demonstrators were among the first anti-abortion activists to exert their restored rights, as a few police officers looked on and a volunteer escort stood ready to bring patients inside the clinic.
So, no, they don't all look like your link describes.
posted by Jahaza at 2:56 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


I'm sure that there exist some "sweet" anti-choice protestors, but that doesn't really cancel out the ones who are, uh, not.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:05 PM on June 27 [3 favorites]


There is nothing in the constitution that prohibits the Supreme Court from weighing the practical implications of the law as heavily or as lightly as the prevailing legal philosophy of the court determines is appropriate in its judgment. You're talking as if the court doesn't exercise that sort of discretion all the time, or as if its function is governed by such rigorous legal reasoning you could swap out the whole court with a software component designed to do the job and reliably get consistent results from it. That's not how it does or ever has worked in reality.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:15 PM on June 27 [5 favorites]


My experience as an escort jibes with the Shakesville post. I'm sure the claimed sweet protestors exist somewhere, but they weren't the regular crowd at the Planned Parenthood where I volunteered.

And while I certainly endorse the Supreme Court using the common law and stare decesis and all that good legal stuff, I'm not under the illusion that courts have ever been anything but political in their decisions at any point in American history. Examining the political outcomes that they seek and achieve is part of any reasonable look at the court or the cases they rule on (or refuse to take). That's not a particular criticism of the court; it's acknowledging the realities and the history.
posted by immlass at 3:34 PM on June 27 [5 favorites]


"Military funerals get buffer zones, filthy sluts seeking abortion don't."

I said I was out, but the SCOTUS actually ruled on this. SNYDER v. PHELPS. Because you're not going to read it, the court found that the buffer zone around the funerals was unconstitutional. The federal government passed another law, more narrowly tailored, that as far as I'm aware hasn't been challenged. One element that makes the new law dubious is that it puts the burden on protestors to demonstrate that they weren't intending to disturb the peace.
posted by klangklangston at 3:39 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


So, no, they don't all look like your link describes.

Might've known that there's an anti-choice version of 'not all men.'

The fantasy of a nice person who just wants to peaceably talk to a confused woman making a horrible choice is a fantasy. It does not exist.

Except it does...


The whole thing is a fantasy. Even with Ms. Loewen there, who (at least while the cameras are running), hews to the spirit of the law? No, the scenario itself is still unworkable.

It is unmitigated hubris to think that people coming to a clinic for this have not already considered it from every goddamn angle. There are no 'confused women' who need comforting strangers handing them pamphlets to help them at the last minute. It's delusional. Reminds me of Chick Tracts, where the central conceit is that people simply haven't heard of Jesus. You know, somehow.

Ms. Loewen has nothing to offer the women coming through. The only thing she's doing is offering her skirt for countless bullies to hide behind, claiming they just want to talk like she is.

Quiet or not, well-intentioned or not, she's part of the problem.
posted by mordax at 3:51 PM on June 27 [12 favorites]


Because you're not going to read it

*Rolleyes* okay Klang.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:00 PM on June 27 [1 favorite]


Ms. Loewen, a retiree from Dedham, Mass., approached a woman and a man who had climbed out of a taxi and were walking toward the clinic, which provides an array of women’s health services, including abortions, and spoke softly in the woman’s ear. She handed the woman a pamphlet depicting a woman’s face and the words, “It’s your choice.”

Do you suppose she even ever bothers to ask the woman she approaches if she's actually pregnant? If she's there for an abortion? I don't know about this clinic specifically, but all the PP clinics I went to offered pre-natal care, and PAP smears, and other kinds of health care to women for regular non-pregnancy-related reasons.
posted by rtha at 4:10 PM on June 27 [8 favorites]


Ms. Loewen, a retiree from Dedham, Mass., approached a woman and a man who had climbed out of a taxi and were walking toward the clinic, which provides an array of women’s health services, including abortions, and spoke softly in the woman’s ear. She handed the woman a pamphlet depicting a woman’s face and the words, “It’s your choice.”

Sounds like there were reporters watching and she was on her best behavior. Perhaps not but I'd be keen to go incognito to see how Ms. Lowen acts next month.
posted by futz at 4:24 PM on June 27 [6 favorites]


I've talked here before about being an escort, especially in the years before buffer zones, when I would come home bruised and sometimes bleeding, from the attacks of the "pro-lifers". My favorite was the preacher who showed up with fetuses in jars, dressed in barbie clothes...he's now the head of one or the other terrorist groups that kill doctors.

I ended up getting a concealed license because of my escort work, because my name and address found their way on to one of the Wanted Lists of our favorite group of unprosecuted domestic terrorists. I lost my condo because the protestors started showing up at my condo and they scared the rest of the people who lived there. I found myself being followed home at night, and people would follow me leaving the grocery store, and frankly it was scary as fuck, because even though I had a gun, I was pretty sure I wasn't capable of killing someone...eventually, I just got rid of the gun and decided that if I was going to be murdered by right to lifers, at least it was likely to be quick...they're mostly shooters.

These people don't want to "counsel" anyone. They want to impose their own version of Sharia law on everyone, and they are willing to destroy, hurt, maim, lie, and kill to get their own way. I have met terrorists, and they were all Americans willing to hurt other Americans because of they think they're on a mission from god.

I've thought long and hard since the ruling yesterday about whether I have the physical stamina, given my significant injuries over the years, to go back to the line. And whether I'm willing to risk my son's life, and my husband's life, and the lives of my animals, because I believe strongly that a woman has a right to medical care free from religious proscription.

And then I remember that I've been on the front line of this fight for over 30 years, and I'm in Texas, and there won't be any clinics left to protect in a couple of months. And I cry.
posted by dejah420 at 5:39 PM on June 27 [29 favorites]


And then I remember that I've been on the front line of this fight for over 30 years, and I'm in Texas, and there won't be any clinics left to protect in a couple of months. And I cry.

Except for the fact that we still have clinics in California, I know this feeling of absolute weariness over this fight. My friends and I were defending clinics more than 25 years ago. How is it we haven't actually gotten any farther along? Sometimes I feel relieved that I can't get pregnant anymore (thanks, chemo-induced premature menopause!), then I think of the millions of women who are still being deprived of their reproductive choices all over the country, and I just feel sick.
posted by scody at 6:10 PM on June 27 [5 favorites]


The idea of a complete stranger approaching me without permission while I walk into the doctors office to "talk softly into my ear" about my appointment is setting off a storm of creepo vibes in my spine.

So this is the best case scenario for an encounter we have here?
posted by Drinky Die at 6:12 PM on June 27 [17 favorites]


(And I'm a big and tall man. Trying to imagine that scenario as a small women being approached by a large man. Are you kidding me?)
posted by Drinky Die at 6:18 PM on June 27 [2 favorites]


klangklangston: ...but the SCOTUS actually ruled on this. SNYDER v. PHELPS. Because you're not going to read it, the court found that the buffer zone around the funerals was unconstitutional

I like reading cases.

Some of the ways in which Snyder v Phelps is different than McCullen v Coakley:

1. Snyder is about a tort for the intentional inflection of emotional distress (and a few others) as opposed to a criminal law. So it's between two private parties, and not at all about buffer zones. In fact, the Phelpses were about 1000 feet away from the church, and about 300 feet from the closest approach to the procession. page 2, last paragraph, continuing to page 3.

2. SCOTUS in Snyder found that the speech in question was not directed primarily towards Snyder, but was of a public nature ("god hates fags" and all that jazz was not about Snyder's son, but about America in general). Just because they're using the funeral to gain attention, doesn't make it private-focused speech. In contrast, the entire point of the abortion protesters, especially the sidewalk counselling-type people, is to have privately-directed speech. Not public speech.

3. The problem with the speech in Snyder was about its content - it wasn't "content neutral", as restrictions on the First Amendment generally have to be. Pages 11 & 12. In McCullen, the Court spent a while explaining why it was content neutral. Page 12.

4. Most importantly: There was no law about buffer zones around funerals in Snyder. Well, it was mentioned. Here's the quote, starting at the last line of page 10:
Maryland now has a law imposing restrictions on
funeral picketing, ... [citation and an aside omitted] ... Maryland's law, however, was not in effect at the time of the events at issue here, so we have no occasion to consider how it might apply to facts such as those before us, or whether it or similar regulations are constitutional.5

5: The Maryland law prohibits picketing within 100 feet of a funeral
service or funeral procession; Westboro’s picketing would have complied
with that restriction.
Did you maybe mean a different case then Snyder to talk about buffer zone constitutionality? Because it is an utterly irrelevant case to this discussion.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:29 PM on June 27 [4 favorites]


Okay. The point of this decision is that if you want to make threats, assaults, obstruction and intimidation illegal, that is what you should do. What you should not do is make illegal any kind of speech with in a specific area. It's an overly broad restriction, at least until it can be demonstrated that the other, less restrictive means are ineffective.
posted by enjoymoreradio at 7:31 PM on June 27


What ‘stand your ground’ laws actually mean
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:19 PM on June 27


@dejah420, the really worrying thing is that I think there will still be need for escorts after they've successfully closed all clinics which perform abortions in Texas. I live in Amarillo and our local branch of Planned Parenthood [1] does not perform abortions and never has. Is still subject to regular protests every Saturday filled with members of the Knights of Columbus screaming insults at anyone who goes in.

After a few bomb threats and an actual vandalism they got money to buy a security fence all around their perimeter and due to local zoning laws sidewalks aren't actually required, so they don't have them.

Remember, they've never performed a single abortion at that place. But women who go there still get shouted at regularly. Sluts have to be shamed don'tcha know.

[1] Which today isn't even officially part of Planned Parenthood anymore, in what I considered to be a futile and somewhat cowardly effort to rid themselves of the protesters they changed their name and became an "independent" outfit several years ago.
posted by sotonohito at 4:53 AM on June 28 [4 favorites]


@Jahaza, pfft. A bit of a show put on by a grandmotherly type for an NYT reporter while the cops are watching immediately after the case was decided means jack shit and you know it.

Let's see how the situation looks on Saturday a few weeks from now. It won't be sweet grandmotherly types creepily "whispering in their ear" (and eew, ick, gross), it'll be former linebackers screaming as loud as they can at women that they're evil sluts and God will punish them for killing their babies.

@twists and turns, it seems as if Volokh is deliberately misconstruing things. We all know that SYG is supposed to apply only to people who feel threatened. That's the point. There's a long history of violence from the anti-choice side, and Florida especially tends to hold the position that **ACTUAL** threat is irrelevant, that even the "reasonable person" standard is invalid, and that what matters is simply if the person standing their ground personally felt they might be attacked.
posted by sotonohito at 5:04 AM on June 28 [1 favorite]


I know that the shields are probably a bad idea, but it seems like mostly the protestors in this case are trying to get themselves heard by the people going into the clinic by yelling at them? Wouldn't a halfway-workable solution to provide the people wanting entrance to the clinic with headphones with some soothing music (or simply noise-cancelling headphones)?

Your protestors can have their free speech all you want, but I can make it pretty easy to ignore them and go.
posted by jamuraa at 6:37 PM on June 28


what matters is simply if the person standing their ground personally felt they might be attacked.

I figure some of these protesters are waiting to test a SYG case where they can shoot a doctor and claim they were defending the fetuses so it was justified deadly force in defense of another.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:30 PM on June 29


I have no problem with the context-free assertion that people should be allowed to protest on public property.

Let me guess, but you do when it is anti-abortion protests?


Well, I do kinda because that seems to be the only place it ever matters. I am sure the dirty hippie holding pen will be set up for the next RNC convention, down the street and around the corner. Maybe someone will try to use this case to force a change but my bet is that we'll see the same lather-rinse-repeat we do here in DC when the cops decide to make their repeat freedom-stomping incident - the speech rights are violated and in about half a decade the taxpayers ultimately end up writing a check. But that "polite conversation" with the empowered never happens.

Only the horrible people who are want to "converse" with folks going to a fixed location get to have their way, because they're going after folks with few choices who are going to an ever-shrinking destination. It's much like the way the right to not be searched on a bus turned out. It's okay, the justices said, because the person can just opt to get off rather than be searched. Oh, they can just call a cab or something, right?

If this case hadn't come on the heels of a decade where anti-war folks were constantly shuttled off and hidden and locations like the Muir-fucking-Woods put up signs about "free speech zones" then it might not have been so offensive. But it's a me-not-thee decision in every practical way.

So yes, I do when it's anti-abortion because they seem to be the only ones who get this right these days. Why shouldn't they be suppressed like all the rest of us?
posted by phearlez at 10:40 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]


Abortion's Underground Railroad
posted by scody at 8:39 AM on July 17


The awesome thing is that even a convicted felon barred from owning a firearm can invoke SYG in Florida. So someone could, say, firebomb a clinic and once they're out of prison come back with a gun and shoot someone and invoke SYG to get out of both the murder charge and the felon in possession charge.

Apparently, Florida's Court of Appeals has the power to write provisions into law that the state's legislature chose not to.

(I don't necessarily think that's always a bad thing, but it should be far more fact specific than the article I read this morning in the Miami Herald about it made it seem it has to be)
posted by wierdo at 8:31 PM on July 18


« Older Point Break (A Wes Anderson film). Point Break (A ...  |  What is the greatest danger of... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments