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Anti-abortion protesters outside Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, N.D.
Anti-abortion protesters outside Red River Women's Clinic in Fargo, N.D.
Reporters covering oral arguments Wednesday morning are saying that "a majority of Supreme Court justices appeared skeptical Wednesday of a 2007 Massachusetts law that establishes a 35-foot buffer zone to prevent protests outside clinics that provide abortions." For an hour, the Court heard from both sides in the case of McCullen v. Coakley:
[S]ome justices said they were concerned that the law restricts speech in a way that is not neutral among viewpoints: clinic workers can talk to patients inside the buffer, while those who object to abortion cannot.

The justices also appeared to worry that the 35-foot zone is too big, and some voiced general concern with the concept of restricting speech on a public sidewalk.

If the majority decides for the plaintiff in the case, 77-year-old Operation Rescue anti-abortion protester Eleanor McCullen, it would reverse or narrow the scope of the 14-year-old ruling in Hill v. Colorado that concluded the state's buffer law was constitutional. The eight-foot "floating" buffer zones around individuals prescribed in Colorado protect clinic clients from protesters who previously got right in their faces trying to persuade or shame them into choosing not to have an abortion. Such confrontations nationwide sparked a counter-movement by pro-choice forces that included volunteer escorts for women arriving at Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide abortions.

Since Hill was decided, other states besides Colorado have imposed their own buffer zones. The questions before the Court are two. Is the Massachusetts law permissible under the previous ruling or does it go too far? Or should Hill be reversed completely?

For reproductive rights advocates, the answer emerges from experience:

In the present day, “We see a lot of protesters actually threatening, intimidating women, doctors, administrative staff as they’re trying to get into the building,” Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said before the hearing.
McCullen claims the buffer zone violates free-speech rights and makes it more difficult to communicate  "It's America," she says. "I should be able to walk and talk gently, lovingly, anywhere with anybody."

That's an argument that resonates with many Americans in an era when protesters on a range of issues are often caged in "free speech zones" far from the targets of their demonstrations.

A key argument of McCullen and her lawyers and supporters is that the law isn't neutral because it allows clinic staff to talk to women seeking abortions to enter the buffer zone but forbids protesters from doing so without the women's consent. That's not the case with the Colorado law that the Court upheld.

Lyle Denniston at the Scotusblog notes:

Two noteworthy changes have occurred at the Supreme Court since the last full-scale ruling on anti-abortion demonstrations outside clinics: four of the Justices who were in the six-to-three majority in that case thirteen years ago have left the Court and been replaced, and the Court’s support of First Amendment rights has steadily expanded. The question now is whether those two changes will merge to make a difference on the issue. [...]

The federal government has entered the case to support the state, relying on the federal government’s interest in protecting a 1994 federal law that bars force, obstruction, interference, and intimidation outside abortion clinics. When Massachusetts strengthened its buffer-zone law, the federal brief said, it did so in the wake of evidence of “the persistence of a disorderly and threatening climate at facility entrances.”

The protesters have drawn a wide array of support, well beyond the usual conservative legal advocacy groups and anti-abortion organizations. Support also comes from labor union organizations seeking to protect the right to picket, religious organizations interested in opportunities to proselytize, and a dozen states.

The only justices still on the Court who voted with the Hill majority are Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. The three who opposed the ruling are still there. One of them, Antonin Scalia, who believes the Roe v. Wade case was wrongly decided, wrote a scathing dissent in Hill:
"Having deprived abortion opponents of the political right to persuade the electorate that abortion should be restricted by law, the Court today continues and expands its assault upon their individual right to persuade women contemplating abortion that what they are doing is wrong. Because, like the rest of our abortion jurisprudence, today's decision is in stark contradiction of the constitutional principles we apply in all other contexts, I dissent."
Presumably Breyer and Ginsburg haven't changed their minds. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan seem likely to support the Massachusetts law. But it's hard to imagine where the fifth vote would come from.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 10:33 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I guess the assault laws protect us (12+ / 0-)

    The solution has to be along the lines of not shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater where none exists. I wonder if anyone on the current Court has that understanding of the barriers between protected and unprotected speech.

  •  This is interesting: (43+ / 0-)
    [S]ome justices said they were concerned that the law restricts speech in a way that is not neutral among viewpoints: clinic workers can talk to patients inside the buffer, while those who object to abortion cannot.
    I think it would be interesting to see a case brought by Jehovah's Witnesses seeking access to people about to undergo blood transfusions so they could "talk to them" about why having a blood transfusion violates God's law.

    That's ridiculous, right? Of course it is, as is the blockquoted above. Why? Because abortion is a medical procedure, not a political one. To follow that logic, free speech by third parties should be allowed at all meeting between a doctor and her or his patients. To follow that logic, there would no longer be doctor/patient privilege.

    Again, abortion is a medical procedure, and any discussions between clinic staff and patients are privileged. I don't see how that violates anyone's right to free speech.

    Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

    by commonmass on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 10:38:36 AM PST

    •  Good point. Presumably the women entering (21+ / 0-)

      the clinic also have decided to enter into an exchange of services-for-payment type agreement.  Would the Supremes allow protesters to block Walmart customers and harass them into not buying stuff there?  

      How about if protesters picketed financial institutions to shame them for their greed?  Or would that be viewed as "terrorism" and the protesters could be rounded up and thrown in jail...like the Occupy protesters were.  

      Too bad the Occupy protesters didn't think to carry dead-fetus signs.      

      "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle stand like a rock." Attributed to T. Jefferson

      by koosah on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 10:52:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's not just fee-for-service, it goes to (15+ / 0-)

        privacy rights, upon which Roe v. Wade was decided. One may argue that was the wrong legal argument, but regardless, doctor/patient privilege is protected by law. As far as I can see, you, or I, have no right to interfere with that once you enter your doctor's office.

        The sticky wicket, as I see it, is what can or cannot happen outside the doctor's office. But the argument that what takes place inside, and what might take place at a protest outside is somehow equivalent is total nonsense.

        Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

        by commonmass on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 10:57:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Eh, not a great argument. (7+ / 0-)
        Presumably the women entering (2+ / 0-)

        the clinic also have decided to enter into an exchange of services-for-payment type agreement.  Would the Supremes allow protesters to block Walmart customers and harass them into not buying stuff there?  

        That argument could easily be extended to eliminate any kind of picket. Hey, the scabs wanted to go exchange their services for payment- Who are you union members to stand outside and tell them that they shouldn't?
      •  I'd think you'd be perfectly free to picket a bank (9+ / 0-)

        or a Starbucks or a gas station or a WalMart or a Verizon store or the like... provided you don't run afoul of whatever the local cops decide to call "trespassing" or "interfering with commerce" or "obstructing traffic" or "disorderly conduct" on a given afternoon.

        In fact, if more people did picket places like this there'd be more of an opportunity to get people on the news stating that they're just "emulating the tactics of the forced-birthers, and if they can do it why can't we?"

        Or more importantly, "If we can't, why can they?"

        Maybe we need to run a few plays out of their playbook and see what happens.

        Funny story: there's a church here in Columbus that was a few months back actually being picketed by an extreme forced-birther group for being insufficiently anti-abortion.  The church complained, called the cops, and it ended up in court. It'll take me a bit to dig up links, but it was pretty entertaining.

        Disclaimer: IANAL, and DNACS (Definitely not a Constitutional Scholar :)
         

        Signature (this will be attached to your comments)

        by here4tehbeer on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 12:48:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  All those things can happen on public sidewalks. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kyril, dinotrac, Pi Li, VClib

        You can't block people from entering a financial institution or a Wal-Mart, but you can stand on a public sidewalk and say things to people going in and out about how they shouldn't go there.  

        And yes, Occupy people can do that do.  As far as I know, they didn't get arrested unless for protesting in front of financial institutions, for example, unless (1) they went off public property on to the private property of the institution, or (2) they were actually blocking people from entering and exiting.  

        No one today was suggesting that abortion protesters have to be allowed (1) to go onto the private property of the clinic; or (2) to block the entrance.

        This is about a law that does not allow abortion protesters to stand on a public sidewalk, not blocking the entrance to the institution, if that public sidewalk is within 35 feet of the entrance to the clinic.   Such laws do not exist for any other kind of speech, as far as I know.  

        •  You are far more restricted than this when (8+ / 0-)

          protesting the NYSE, as Occupy was. I believe it's on security grounds. Given the history of attacks on abortion clinics I'd say that using that as a precedent would mean that there should actually be more restrictive rules in place for abortion clinics.

          Such laws also apply when there are the various trade or international meetings. Again in the name of security.

          How do you compare those things with this law, legally speaking? They have all been found constitutional, to my knowledge.

          If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

          by AoT on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:06:35 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  "such laws do not exist for any other..." (9+ / 0-)

          Well, the obvious example that comes to mind is the restriction on politicking near polling places.

          •  This is an interesting analogy (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rduran
          •  differences (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Bill W, Pi Li, VClib

            1.  Restrictions like that are very limited in time -- only on election day.  You have opportunities every day up until then to reach that audience. The 35 foot buffer zone is permanent.  Part of the constitutional evaluations of time, place, and manner restrictions is whether they are no more broad than necessary to serve a legitimate government interest, and if the speaker has reasonable alternatives for getting their message out.  That's much easier to argue when you have a law that prevents any speech in one area on one day to ensure there's no corruption of the voting process.  On the other hand, the permanent 35 foot buffer may seem to some to be intended to prevent anti-abortion protesters from being heard by women on public sidewalks outside a clinic.  That is not a legitimate government interest -- it is not a legitimate government interest to prevent one viewpoint from being heard.  

            2.  Restrictions at polling places are completely content neutral.  There's an issue here that government is trying to prevent anti-abortion views from being heard by women on a public sidewalk outside a clinic, but allowing those same women in those same spaces to hear pro-choice views.

            •  Well, it's not black and white, is it? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              madronagal, Old Sailor

              I think these things inevitably wind up dealing in grey areas. A buffer zone outside a clinic need not be permanent, how about if it just covers "procedure days", i.e. the days where abortions are being performed, which might be one or two days out of the week?  

              As for the content neutrality part of it, I agree on that. I escorted for a number of years at a place with a local injunction stipulating that, within the specified area, if someone tells you not to speak to them, you're not allowed to speak to them. I would greet patients and say, "if you don't want to talk with those people, just tell them so, and they have to leave you alone." And if a patient had ever turned to me and said "don't talk to me", I would have immediately shut up, since the injunction applied to me as much as it did to anyone.

              This is an issue that causes me a lot of conflict. I'm generally a big 1st Amendment advocate. But some of the stuff I've seen in front of the clinics makes me sick.

            •  in those same spaces? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Old Sailor

              The areas in contention are outside the clinic. What the protesters seek to do is control what happens or what is advocated for inside the clinic. On private property. With informed consent.

              Elections don't happen every day.

            •  Not content neutral at all (0+ / 0-)

              You can discuss any number of things within the zone of exclusion provided they do not touch on certain prohibited topics.  And setting aside preventing intimidation, which is the one argument in favor of buffer zones and one which isn't even terribly convincing from a point of effectiveness, why would we favor viewpoint exclusions at polling places?  

        •  Does the woman have any recourse (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          One Opinion, Old Sailor

          if they start verbally harassing her?  What if they don't block the entrance but keep stepping in front of her so she finds it hard to move toward the entrance?  If the patient even accidentally bumps into them trying to get around them, won't they charge her with assault?

          Let's see how many of the "counselors" as Scalia calls them behave in the following manner:

          Protester:  "miss, I'd like to talk to you about other options than abortion and how I can help you get financial assistance"

          Patient: - "no thank you"

          Protester - "okay."

          It's what I expect when the Jehovah's Witnesses come to my door. All you should ever have to say is "no thank you, I'm not interested" and that should end it. As for abortion, it is still a legal procedure, so patients are completely within their rights to proceed to their appointment without undo hassle.

          •  Different things. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Pi Li, VClib

            Physical movements like stepping in front of her impeding her movements, or bumping into her can be legally prevented.  A smaller buffer zone, like 5 or 6 feet away , would do that. That's why I said I suspect a smaller buffer zone would be less problematic.  You can legislate to prevent the physical things.  

            But if by "verbal harassment," you mean shouting some offensive stuff at her, no, government cannot legislate against people shouting offensive stuff at you in a public area like a public sidewalk. If I park my car in the street, and get out and am on the public sidewalk getting ready to go into my house, my (hypothetical) bigoted neighbor who doesn't think women should have equal rights has a constitutional right to say all sorts of offensive things to me in a loud nasty voice while he's standing on that public sidewalk.  

            That's the price I pay for my free speech rights -- I must recognize  the free speech rights of others, even if I find what they say incredibly offensive.  

          •  Yes, two options (0+ / 0-)

            Of course, both depend on being in a friendly jurisdiction, but then again buffer zones only exist in such places.

            1. Press charges whenever and wherever violence or harassment is offered.  This is where having counter-protesters to intervene and document abuses is damned useful; especially in areas where local law enforcement is either unable or unwilling to do their jobs.  
            2. Seek civil redress.  Almost all jurisdictions have harassment on the books, which is just the start of what many patients face running that gauntlet.  Ultimately, if we're going to deflate the opposition, it's going to require holding their organizations accountable.

            Neither requires any additional that would infringe on the rights of peaceful protestors to zealously make their points.  So long as they remained peaceful--not even respectful, just non-violent and non-harassing--they'd be in the clear.

      •  This just happened in NYC. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        PsychoSavannah, AoT, One Opinion

        Reverend Billy was arrested with his choir director for his group doing a humorous song in a Chase bank lobby. They were charged with riot and menacing. It was quite serious. (Fortunately, there was tape and the charges were dismissed.)

        How about if protesters picketed financial institutions to shame them for their greed?  Or would that be viewed as "terrorism" and the protesters could be rounded up and thrown in jail.
        I hope someone is writing an amicus brief to this point:
        Would the Supremes allow protesters to block Walmart customers and harass them into not buying stuff there?
        Or rather, speak gently and persuasively about all the reasons they should not patronize Walmart.

        Okay, the Government says you MUST abort your child. NOW do you get it?

        by Catskill Julie on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:36:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Completely different. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Pi Li

          A bank lobby is private property.  You have no free speech rights when you are on someone else's property.  

          The case involves the public sidewalks, which are the typical example of where you do have free speech rights.

          •  Unless you have a piece of chalk. (3+ / 0-)

            Alex Schaefer, L.A. Artist Behind Burning-Bank Paintings, Arrested for Chalking Outside Chase

            burning bank

            I guess an artist's chalk drawing on the sidewalk is much, much scarier than a barrage of bloody fetus photos and the police need to intervene.

            crooks_front_sm_thumb_200x149

            Notice the word "CROOKS."  On the sidewalk in front of the building...not in the lobby.  Supposedly this was a terrorist threat, or something.  

            I still say if he had used his chalk to draw a fetus, he would have been treated differently.    

            "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle stand like a rock." Attributed to T. Jefferson

            by koosah on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 07:37:39 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  The issue is, the rules are ALWAYS in favor of (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Old Sailor, koosah

            the powerful over the powerless.

            Anti-abortion mobs can be 35 feet from a terrified, traumatized woman seeking a PRIVATE medical consult, but several happy, cheerful people singing a funny song are charged with menace and RIOT. And peaceful political protesters can be fenced and contained blocks away from the event they seek to peacefully protest, or simply LOCKED AWAY for DAYS without redress!

            Okay, the Government says you MUST abort your child. NOW do you get it?

            by Catskill Julie on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 10:59:07 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  CJ - they could have done it on the sidewalk (0+ / 0-)

          and would not have been arrested. The bank lobby is private property where there are no First Amendment rights.

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 12:57:59 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Your Walmart question phrased another way is (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Old Sailor

        would the Supreme Court find trespassing (on private property) laws unconstitutional?  I doubt it.

    •  The problem is this isn't a true buffer zone (10+ / 0-)

      Remember, this is all outside the clinic in presumably public spaces. The problem here is that the zone is not merely a 35 foot space where no one but patients are allowed to travel through. Allowing clinic workers presents a strong argument that Massachusetts is effectively regulating the content of speech; therefore, the law ceases to be content neutral/solely for the protection of patients and is unconstitutional under the First Amendment because the state has targeted one form of speech for regulation in the zone. It will be interesting to see how far the Court goes if it strikes down the law - whether it bans all types of buffer zone laws or simply strikes down this law for lacking content neutrality, in which case Massachusetts would be free to enact a similar law with a true buffer zone in response.  

    •  I think that Jehovah's Witnesses should have the (3+ / 0-)

      right to be outside a hospital telling people that they shouldn't get a transfusion. Upholding this law would mean further restrictions on the time/place/manner of protests. Of course, they don't let us go protest right next to trade meetings, so you could say the precedent is already set.

      If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

      by AoT on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 11:40:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  My thoughts exactly (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      redwagon, Back In Blue, Old Sailor

      I'm sure they'll next find that people who oppose investment in oil companies must have equal access to financial planners' clients.

      “Republicans...think American standard of living is a fine thing--so long as it doesn't spread to all the people... And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.” Harry S. Truman

      by fenway49 on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 02:53:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  If they are on public sidewalks, absolutely (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dinotrac, Pi Li, VClib

        You can talk to anyone on a public sidewalk -- including telling those clients what you think about those oil company investments.  That's absolutely your First Amendment Right.

        The problem is that this law says speech on certain topics can't happen on certain public sidewalks.  

        •  What about towns with anti-solicitation laws? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Old Sailor, sweatyb

          If you are rich and have lawyers to speechify on your behalf, you have all kinds of rights.

          CT is always  in awe of the majesty of the law and against common sense and the reality that average people have to deal with.

          "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them." Luke 11:46

          •  Anti-solicitation is a form of trespass law (0+ / 0-)

            The body of law that governs the issue of when someone can leave the sidewalk and come to your front door is complex. Usually someone needs your permission to be on your property, but the law recognizes that there are many benign reasons why someone would come to your front door. Anti-solicitation just clarifies that in that city or town solicitation is viewed as trespass and the solicitor is not allowed on to your property. You can do the same thing by putting a sign at the front of your property that no solicitation is permitted.

            "let's talk about that"

            by VClib on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 01:08:25 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  talk to them "gently and lovingly", remember. (11+ / 0-)

      I gagged at that!

      Wonder how the Supreme Ones would feel if they were entering a clinic to decide how to treat their cancer, worried and emotional....and had to run a gauntlet of people exercising their "free speech" waving pictures of assorted cancer deaths, screaming "gently and lovingly" the choices others think they should make, and how they were going to hell if they didn't make the correct choice. Bet they'd like a buffer zone, huh?

    •  The question is this: Does the buffer zone extend (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      One Opinion

      into the clinic or merely around it?

      If merely around it, how much medical practice takes place outside the clinic  -- and would that constitute malpractice?

      LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

      by dinotrac on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:40:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's what I thought too... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      One Opinion, Old Sailor

      If the clinic employees are talking to these women, they're just taking care of their medical needs.  So how is free speech of people who aren't involved in the care of the patient even a discussion?  They have no right to free speech in this case.

      Every election is the most important election.

      by TokayAsriel on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 06:57:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  The sphere of free speech (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Old Sailor

      does not extend to private property, which is where patients and providers get down to business.  No one would argue that Richard Dawkins has a free speech right to impose on a Sunday School class on church grounds.

  •  Let me get this straight..... (26+ / 0-)

    Members of Congress and the Supreme Court enjoy a far larger buffer zone and their work is the work of the people - their work is for the public.

    But a woman entering a doctors office for the most private of activities (visiting a doctor) has less of a buffer.

    I will never understand the lack of logic that goes into making law.

  •  Does that mean (12+ / 0-)

    ...that the Supreme Court will overturn all government-designated "free speech zones"?

    I think not.  As usual, their concern is for their constituency alone.  Just like Bush v. Gore.  It only applies to one situation and is not a precedent.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 10:53:31 AM PST

  •  I'm not sure how the First Amendment protects (15+ / 0-)

    someone else's "right" to harass & harangue me as I walk into my doctor's office to seek medical care. This seems so fucked up. Not to mention that it is going to allow gun-toting wackos to get so much closer to clinics, patients & doctors to carry out their next evil deed.

    Ho'oponopono. To make things right; restore harmony; heal.

    by earicicle on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 10:55:45 AM PST

    •  It protects pan-handlers. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, Wisdumb, kyril, coffeetalk

      Generally, people can speak at you in ways you find irritating or undesirable in a public place.

      •  Irrelevant reply is irrelevant. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        samanthab, Old Sailor

        Ho'oponopono. To make things right; restore harmony; heal.

        by earicicle on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 01:14:34 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  No, it is entirely relevant (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kyril, VClib

          These people are scum, but if we start making exceptions to rights then they aren't rights they're just suggestions for what people we agree with can do. Why do you think the ACLU takes cases for various Nazi groups? Do you think that panhandlers should be arrested if they ask someone for money too much? Should panhandlers be restricted in asking for money from people, because that would be a free speech restriction.

          If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

          by AoT on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 02:40:02 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Have you had to enter & leave your doctor's (14+ / 0-)

            office with these people monitoring you, watching you, pointing their graphic signs at you...just because your doctor's office happens to be in the same building as Planned Parenthood? A building armed to the teeth with cameras, alarms, security doors, etc.--an obstacle course patients had to navigate to receive medical care. I have, and I always had trouble getting a normal blood pressure reading when I was inside. These 'protesters' are part of an organized, decades-old campaign to terrorize women and those who provide them medical care, to intimidate us into not seeking needed medical care, and to violate our privacy.

            No 'panhandler' has ever made me feel unsafe. I willingly give money to people in need.

            Ho'oponopono. To make things right; restore harmony; heal.

            by earicicle on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 02:54:19 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  No I haven't (5+ / 0-)

              And like I said, these people are scum. That doesn't change the fact that legal rights are legal rights. I've lived in more than one place that has tried to restrict panhandlers for exactly the same reason, that they made people feel unsafe. It sounds like some of these people are assaulting people who go to the clinics, that's its own crime and needs to be prosecuted as such. But that's different than free speech and telling people what you believe, even if they don't want to hear it.

              If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

              by AoT on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 02:59:23 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  If a protester gets in a patient's face (6+ / 0-)

                say in Florida where there are a lot of anti-abortion protesters, would she be within her rights to stand her ground and blow the pest away with her firearm because she feels threatened by the pest's actions?

                Don't look back, something may be gaining on you. - L. "Satchel" Paige

                by arlene on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 04:25:18 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  In Florida I'd bet that depends on the race (6+ / 0-)

                  of both people. Based on what I've seen.

                  If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

                  by AoT on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 04:29:24 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  You can pass laws against (7+ / 0-)

                  blocking the doorway to the clinic.  You can pass laws against physical intimidation.  You can pass laws against physical contact.  In most places, those laws already exist.

                  What you generally cannot do is pass laws against people saying horrible or insulting things to other people while they are on a public sidewalk.

                  •  Difference between passing a law and enforcing it (8+ / 0-)

                    I was active in the movement in suburban Illinois in the 1980's when the Pro-Life Action League was in business.  We could not count on the police to respond to our complaints.  We had a rally in Park Ridge and sure enough, the lifers showed up to break up our rally as the leader with the megaphone stated.  

                    We called the police, flagged down a passing patrol car and were ignored each time.  We finally walked to the police station and held our rally on their steps.  The police came out and chased all  but three of the protesters away because they didn't have a permit to assemble and we did.

                    The pattern of non-enforcement is what led to the buffer zones around free-standing clinics.

                    Don't look back, something may be gaining on you. - L. "Satchel" Paige

                    by arlene on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:25:19 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  That's a problem with enforcement (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Justanothernyer, VClib

                      and that means you hold public officials, like those responsible for law enforcement, accountable.  The fact that law enforcement is not doing its job is not grounds for violating the First Amendment.  

                      And I suspect that SOME buffer zone will survive, but it will be far narrower than 35 feet (even Justice Kagan was disturbed by that).  That 35 feet is clearly meant to prevent women entering the clinic from hearing what the people standing on the sidewalk had to say, and government can't do that under the First Amendment.  I suspect it will still be permissible to create a much smaller buffer zone (a few feet, perhaps -- close enough to be heard but enough distance so you can't block anybody).  

                  •  Women should not have to be subjected to (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    earicicle

                    Assholes harassing and intimidating them at close range. This law was likely passed to address a continuing pattern of conduct which included threatening and harassing behavior. There was a compelling reason in other words. It's very easy to say that laws already exist to protect women, but is it really practical to say police can respond to every case of someone shouting or shaking a fist at women trying to exercise their right to healthcare? Is it really too much of a burden to provide a buffer zone around a woman entering a clinic, especially in view of historic patterns of emotional and physical harassment?
                    In fact, why do the protesters have a protected right to communicate with a specific person versus the public in general? And to communicate with the public, they can be outside a reasonable buffer zone.

                    •  Because the government CANNOT constitutionally (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      VClib

                      pass laws that protect us --while we are in public -- from being subjected to speech we find offensive.   We can choose to ignore it, to reply, or to walk away into some private space where we don't have to be subjected to the free speech of others.  But none of us have the "right" not to be subjected, in public areas, to speech that we find offensive.  

                •  Now you know women (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Old Sailor

                  who go to Planned Parenthood clinics would have no right whatsoever to defend herslf from violent pro-life protesters using the SYG Law.

                  Where is that snark tag?

                  Seriously though---some pro-life protesters have thrown acid-

                  http://supremebystandr.com/...

                  And the closer the high court allows these violent ideologues to get...............the more dangerous it becomes.

                  "The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?”---Bob Marley

                  by lyvwyr101 on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 08:59:18 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

            •  You can pass laws against intimidation. (5+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              AoT, kyril, Pi Li, Justanothernyer, VClib

              But "intimidation" has to be a threat of physical violence for it to be made illegal.

              You cannot pass laws against people saying horrible or insulting things to you while you are on a public sidewalk.  

              •  You are correct but you can sue them (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Tonedevil, lyvwyr101

                and oppose their insults right back and ask for names and write down what ever name they give you and you can talk back and then there is a public distrubance and that is against the law.   Judges will get mighty tired of disturbing the peace cases.

                We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

                by Vetwife on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:33:44 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  You can't sue somebody (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Pi Li, Justanothernyer, VClib

                  for insulting you while you are both on a public sidewalk.  

                  And a person is talking to you and YOU escalate it to a public disturbance because you don't like what they are saying, YOU will be arrested.  

                  •  YOU being an attorney know you can sue (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Old Sailor, lyvwyr101, Tonedevil

                    anybody.Defamation of character comes to mind.   Winning is another matter but YOU can sue anyone...
                    sorry I wouldn't hire you to represent me in any matter I can think of and for the record...I have never sued anyone for money but every suit I brought  in other matters.. I won.

                    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

                    by Vetwife on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 03:46:02 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  When I said you couldn't sue (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      VClib

                      I meant you couldn't likely couldn't bring a legitimate claim.  If the claim is deemed frivolous -- as something like that may well be -- you would have to pay the attorney's fees of the party you sued as the sanction for bringing a frivolous claim.

                      Even under laws like Defamation of Character, you can only sue if the person said something objectively provable as false and factually incorrect.  "I think you are a slut" is not actionable. Even "you are a slut" is probably not actionable, because "slut" is a opinion -- it's not an objectively defined term.  Things like "you are a convicted felon" might be defamation of character if (1) it's demonstrably untrue -- i.e., you can prove you have never been convicted of a felony; and (2)  it's also published in a way that violates defamation laws.

                      But things that these people say -- like "you're killing your baby" or "you're sinning" or "we are praying you see how wrong you are" can not possibly be defamation of character because they are all opinion-based.  

                      •  Will I be... (3+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Old Sailor, lyvwyr101, Vetwife

                        in the clear legally when I get in their face and scream "your mother sucks clocks in hell"? Can I be close enough as I yell that they can feel my breath in their face?

                        This makes about as much sense as Mike Huckabee on mescaline. - Prodigal 2-6-2008

                        by Tonedevil on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 10:02:06 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Tonedevil - if it's true (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Pi Li, Tonedevil

                          Truth is always a viable defense. However, I wouldn't make your statements about someone's parents. Keep the subject to the person you are talking to and keep it to opinions, unless they are facts you can prove.

                          "let's talk about that"

                          by VClib on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 12:10:18 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  I don't see how... (3+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            lyvwyr101, Vetwife, Old Sailor

                            "your mother sucks cocks in hell" is a provable or disprovable statement any more than "you are going to hell for getting an abortion". Understand my only concern is the legality so I am strongly questioning if making a statement involving parents in the way I have described has any bearing on that.
                            I feel that "you are going to hell for getting an abortion" and "your mother sucks cocks in hell" are statements likely to incite physical retaliation and the person using them bears some responsibility for the resulting mayhem.  

                            This makes about as much sense as Mike Huckabee on mescaline. - Prodigal 2-6-2008

                            by Tonedevil on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 12:55:00 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Man-do I like your style! (2+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Tonedevil, Old Sailor

                            "The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?”---Bob Marley

                            by lyvwyr101 on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 03:23:24 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                      •  Hmmmm... Someone tells me You are a whore (0+ / 0-)

                        and going to burn in Hell.... I would say PROVE IT.
                        Burden of proof lies where?   If it would be me... then I could prove I was NOT a whore and according to their own belief they would have to back up on judging. Frivolous lawsuit or not.

                        We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

                        by Vetwife on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 03:30:29 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

              •  Physical intimidation was the reason for the law (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                sweatyb, earicicle, Old Sailor, lyvwyr101

                in MA.  What's the difference in terms of security risk between clinics and the NYSE, political conventions, international trade conventions, congressional buildings, or the Supreme Court itself?

                The priest said, "Today's sermon is called 'Liars', but first I have a question. How many of you have read Chapter 66 in Matthew?" Nearly every hand went up. "You're just the group I need to speak to," the priest said. "There's no such chapter."

                by Back In Blue on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 06:15:06 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  That's why the 35 feet is a problem for (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  VClib

                  people like Justice Kagan, I think.

                  If the LAW was directed ONLY physical intimidation, the buffer zone would be 5 or 6 feet -- close enough to be heard very easily, but not close enough to easily get physical.  A buffer zone of 35 feet looks a lot like the law is trying to prevent the women entering the clinic from hearing the protesters very well unless they shout.  It looks like it's more directed to the speech than any physical intimidation.  

                  •  The security risk is still there. (4+ / 0-)

                    35 feet is reasonable to me to protect people from physical harm, especially considering the CO law requiring 8 feet of distance from individuals was completely ineffective and also a driver of the MA law.  

                    Besides that, why do politicians, business execs, and other masters of the universe get to enter their buildings without even seeing let alone hearing the protestors but women seeking medical care must be able to hear anti-abortion protesters "very well".  

                    By the way, they are shouting whether they are 35 feet away, 5 feet away, or in your face.

                    The priest said, "Today's sermon is called 'Liars', but first I have a question. How many of you have read Chapter 66 in Matthew?" Nearly every hand went up. "You're just the group I need to speak to," the priest said. "There's no such chapter."

                    by Back In Blue on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 07:37:25 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  Physical intimidation is *not* the only kind of (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Back In Blue, Old Sailor, Tonedevil

                    intimidation. Especially for patients seeking medical care, some of whom--by definition--may be especially vulnerable because of their medical condition. Not every patient at a medical office is a healthy, brazen, recreational/elective abortion-seeking Amazon in peak physical condition, ready and able to confront psychological & verbal harassment from whackjobs within spitting distance. Some of us might be cancer patients, for example.

                    FYI.

                    Ho'oponopono. To make things right; restore harmony; heal.

                    by earicicle on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 08:29:03 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  But physical intimidation is the only kind of (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      VClib

                      intimidation that the government can outlaw.

                      If I make a credible threat of physical force against you, the government can outlaw that.

                      If -- on the public streets -- I call you horrible names, or personally insult you, or say horrible things to you ("You are a slut, you are going to burn in hell, you are killing your baby) the government cannot outlaw that in public areas generally open to free speech, like public sidewalks.

                •  It went beyond intimidation- (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Tonedevil, Old Sailor

                  http://supremebystandr.com/...

                  In 1994, John Salvi shot and killed two women, and injured 5 others, at two abortion clinics in Brookline, Massachusetts.

                  "The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?”---Bob Marley

                  by lyvwyr101 on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 09:07:22 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  "Intimidation has to be a threat of physical (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Old Sailor

                violence for it to be made illegal." Jeebus: Where the hell did you go to law school? I hope you don't have any domestic violence clients.

                Ho'oponopono. To make things right; restore harmony; heal.

                by earicicle on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 08:33:00 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  earicicle -the discussion is about First Amendment (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Pi Li

                  issues, and the body of First Amendment law around what should be a reasonable barrier for protesters. It's not about domestic violence, a very separate body of law. But you know that.

                  "let's talk about that"

                  by VClib on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 12:14:36 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  intimidation (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                earicicle, Old Sailor, lyvwyr101

                Does not necessarily mean overt threat of violence.

                If I stand too close to you, even if I don't touch you, I can make you fear. Eight feet is close enough for a police officer to use force when threatened. Intimidation is thugery.

                Provocation allows for retaliation in self defense but what of the defenseless?  Those protesters provoke people and think if you were some kid trying to help anyone, even if it were his sister, and those people get up in your face?

                Kids like that are meat to the protesters. Lawsuit waiting to happen. They can even subpoena the clinic's footage of the incident.

    •  In a public space like when you are on a public (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, DAISHI, kyril, Pi Li, VClib

      sidewalk, you have no right whatsoever to be free of speech you don't like.  When you are on a public sidewalk, anyone else on that sidewalk has an absolute First Amendment right to say anything they want to you, with the possible exception of a credible physical threat.  But if I am walking on a public sidewalk, someone else, for example, has an absolute right to tell me, in very stark and insulting terms, how he/she feels about women like me who are mothers and work outside the home.

      That's the price we pay for a First Amendment.  

      •  But if you ask that person to go away (5+ / 0-)

        and leave you alone and he or she continues to follow you and harass you with their opinion, doesn't that become just plain old harassment? When does that person's right to free speech trump your right to be left alone when you ask?

        The forced birthers don't always use the gentle and loving approach to voice their opinions to women who have already been through it all to arrive at decision. Does the woman entering the clinic have the right to not only request to be left in peace, but to expect those people hanging out on the sidewalk in front of the clinic to comply? Especially if they are getting too physically close?

        •  Not legally, no. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Pi Li, Elizaveta, Justanothernyer, VClib

          If you are in a public place like on a public sidewalk, you can't do anything to prevent people from talking to you. You can ask them to stop, you can ignore them, but they absolutely have a right -- a Constitutional right -- to be on that public sidewalk and say what they want -- as long as it's not physically threatening. (What you can do is go onto private property if that's available -- like in a store or something -- and the store owner can then stop them from talking to you, or tell them to leave, if they are talking to you in an unpleasant way.)  

          If they are following down the street in a way that is physically threatening, THAT'S definitely illegal.  

          But -- I'll give you an extreme example -- a fundamentalist Christian can walk on a public sidewalk behind a gay couple (following them) saying how gay relationships are sinful, she'll pray they stop sinning, that kind of thing.

          •  Good things (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Old Sailor

            (like free speech) become so freakish in the wrong hands.

            •  I'm a big First Amendment supporter (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Justanothernyer, VClib

              I think it's the most important freedom we have.  

              I do recognize, however, that the First Amendment means that government has to treat all speech equally.  Allowing government to pick and choose which content is permissible and which is not is the one thing that is not in any way ok.

              So, if the government can't restrict me based on the content of my speech, I have to recognize that the government also can't restrict speech of others based on the content of their speech, even if I find their speech horrible or offensive.  

              •  One of the problems I have with the Constitution (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Old Sailor, Elizaveta

                being seen as immutable is things like this. When it was written I'm pretty sure abortion was legal.

                The founding fathers didn't see this one coming.

                Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature. If I had Bill Gates money, I'd buy Detroit.

                by ZenTrainer on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 06:54:42 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

        •  Your comment is great! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Old Sailor

          I don't believe this has anything  to do with anybody's right to Freedom of Speech--not one god-damned thing.

           The only reason this is being done is so these people can harass, intimidate, frighten and annoy women entering or leaving abortion clinics.

          They know, or surmise why those women are there: and they are completely and totally opposed to abortion; they positively HATE what these women are doing.

          But-They-Want-The-Legal-Right-To-Be-Physically-Closer-Yet.

          We shouldn't kid ourselves.

          Anybody who believes the legal niceties of this bullshit-Chris Christies got a bridge to sell ya.

          I don't believe it--for even one minute.

          They hate what these women are doing, but they insist on the legal right to be physically closer to them?

          Gee whiz---and golly gee---whatever could be the ReASON FOR THIS?

          "The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?”---Bob Marley

          by lyvwyr101 on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 03:40:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Wow. Who was your ConLaw teacher? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Old Sailor

        And can you get a refund? Plus interest? 'Cause you was robbed!

        Ho'oponopono. To make things right; restore harmony; heal.

        by earicicle on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 08:38:16 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  At it's heart (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VClib

      The First Amendment is all about the right to be wrong.

    •  All abortion clinics should be in shopping malls (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sethtriggs

      Try protesting, say a Disney store, in an enclosed shopping mall and see how fast security escorts you out. Then try putting fliers under windshields.  
      Sure you can protest several hundred feet away on a public sidewalk surrounding the mall and it's parking lot, not that anyone could hear you and providing there is a sidewalk at all.  
      Seems like the perfect solution, a woman seeking an abortion can enjoy as much protection from public harassment As a sweat shop exploiter.

      Freedom of speech, in my view, does not mean the freedom to buy the United States government -- Bernie Sanders

      by OnePingOnly on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 08:11:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  OneP - shopping centers are private property (0+ / 0-)

        where there are no First Amendment rights. With very few exceptions you can't picket or protest on private property without the consent of the owners.

        Although its rare shopping centers can be considered on a case by case basis as a "public square", which can make them a gray area.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 02:07:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  From the Dept. of "Well, Duh!" (15+ / 0-)
    clinic workers can talk to patients inside the buffer, while those who object to abortion cannot.
    Know what else is unfair? McDonalds workers can stand behind the counter and get you a burger and I'm not allowed to jump back there and tell you the burger sucks. Because I don't work there.

    Clinic workers are working at their place of employment. Protesters are kept back so the workers can do their jobs.

    Perhaps the Justices would be cool with me hanging out in their chambers telling them how much their rulings bite.

    I live under the bridge to the 21st Century.

    by Crashing Vor on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 10:56:53 AM PST

    •  It's a public sidewalk. McD is a private business. (6+ / 0-)

      Pretty sure listed place of employment for the clinic workers is not going to say anything about the sidewalk. Not really applicable.

      A closer parallel would be you standing on the sidewalk in front of McDonalds telling people how bad for them those burgers actually are- which most of us would probably want to be legal.

      Remember, the Law is an Ass.

      Obviously, that's a very different situation- except from a legal standpoint.

      The CO tactic which just doesn't allow speech w/in whatever radius is probably a better answer- if nobody can talk, there aren't any issues of content.

      Pathetic, but true.

      •  True regards location (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        swampyankee, Lying eyes

        My larger point was that clinic workers get paid to discuss the procedure with patients. It's their job. The people yelling and preying, oops, praying are doing a hobby. I would think that people about their legal, paid profession might have a bit more consideration.

        I live under the bridge to the 21st Century.

        by Crashing Vor on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 11:36:24 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  We can't go there. It just leads to paid (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Crashing Vor, kyril

          asshole on the street. Last thing we need- We've already got FOX.

        •  And you're at the clinic specifically because you (5+ / 0-)

          want to talk with the worker - and you don't want to talk to the mob in the parking lot!

        •  Certainly true inside the clinic (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Crashing Vor, VClib

          Not so much on the public sidewalk, which is the area that's relevant in this case

          •  So fine (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            One Opinion, Old Sailor

            Ban the clinic workers discussing abortion or persuading the clients or engaging with the protestors in the buffer zone. That's pretty much best practice anyway.

            Hopefully, they'd still be allowed to say something like "Welcome. Come right this way."?

            And obviously once they're off the sidewalk, they can do whatever they want. Preferably in the clinic, where the woman intended to go to take care of whatever business she came for.

            Of course, the only reason the clinic workers (or the volunteer escorts) need to say anything is because the women have to walk the gauntlet of rabid screaming assholes to get to the clinic in the first place. When the protesters aren't they, they just walk in and talk inside.

            The Empire never ended.

            by thejeff on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 06:35:20 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  As I said elsewhere, (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              VClib

              A more obvious solution (and one that may be the outcome) is saying that you can have a buffer zone of a few feet -- close enough so that the protesters can be heard, but enough distance to lessen the ability to get physical or block the entrance.

              The 35 foot buffer zone looks like government is trying to prevent the protesters from being heard by women outside the clinic.  That's not permissible under the First Amendment. Government can't say, "We're going to pass a law making it more difficult for a particular message to be heard."  

      •  A closer parallel (0+ / 0-)

        Would be exactly how long can I and each of my pals take in crossing the entrance to your McD drive through? If I walk very slowly, and get a bunch of others to do the same... Not _blocking_exactly but pushing the exact limits of the law, such that McD has to hire security people to ensure you don't exceed your legal rights to take up that sidewalk. Holding your pictures of eviscerated cows.

        Blocking access to a business. Non profit or not. Not discussion or speech of any kind. Preventing operation of a health care facility or any other legal facility.

        The intent is where the line can be drawn.

        •  OneO - you can't impede (0+ / 0-)

          If you have organized a group of people to impede access, that isn't legal and McD's can have the police or private security intervene. The key is that you have lots of rights to inform (speech) but not to disrupt.  

          "let's talk about that"

          by VClib on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 02:14:57 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  John Waters, as usual, got it right: (6+ / 0-)

    What the anti-choice crowd would love to be able to do:

    Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

    by commonmass on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 11:00:45 AM PST

  •  Yes I Believe Medical Practitioners Should Have (9+ / 0-)

    free speech advantage in conducting a medical event than political hecklers.

    And let's see if any suits over the MILES AWAY free speech zones from Republican events make it to the Court.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 11:09:12 AM PST

  •  If it is a legitimate public health aim (6+ / 0-)

    to prohibit cigarette smoking outdoors in a large radius around the doorway of a public building on public property, then it should also be a legitimate public health aim to restrict conduct of persons entering the campus and grounds of a reproductive health care facility.

  •  When a clinic escort or patient claims (4+ / 0-)

    Stand Your Ground, maybe then we'll see buffer zones.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 11:16:13 AM PST

  •  Oh, Lordy! (7+ / 0-)
    "It's America," she says. "I should be able to walk and talk gently, lovingly, anywhere with anybody."
    Complete B.S. as these unwanted confrontations and approach by strangers with an agenda often constitute legal assault.
    Not B.S. as stunning as Scalia's defense of the 'free speech' anti-choice bullies, though...
    the Court today continues and expands its assault upon their individual right to persuade women contemplating abortion that what they are doing is wrong.
    who seems not to understand his legal terminology.
    •  Eh, not really- If they did we'd see a lot more (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      714day, MGross, coffeetalk

      arrests.

      Talking to someone, without threatening to do them harm, isn't assault. It can become assault if threat of harm is made, but unfortunately, it's going to be hard to find a judge that'll say praying for someone actually hurts them.

      Do I have a right to stand on Wall St. and talk about the moral perils of capitalism? Should I be arrested for telling a bankster that their children will starve so that they may profit now?

      Legally identical.

      •  The buffer zone around the stock exchange (5+ / 0-)

        is far larger than 35 feet.

        If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

        by AoT on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 11:50:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  What's the basis of that? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Pi Li

          Remember, we are talking about 35 feet once you get off the private property -- in other words, you can't stand on a public sidewalk outside the building if you are within 35 feet of that.

          There's no law that prevents you from standing outside of the New York Stock exchange on the public sidewalk with a sign saying what you think about the NYSE.  You can't block people from entering, and you can't enter yourself because it's private property.

          •  Did you see the exchange or pics during OWS? (3+ / 0-)

            The entire street was blocked off by barricades and you could only protest across the street catty corner to the stock exchange. At least that was the set up when we were protesting in 2011. I don't know if they've kept it tht way or not.

            If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

            by AoT on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:34:36 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  A group large enough to block streets or even (0+ / 0-)

              block access to the NYSE?  Sure, for that kind of thing, they'll restrict where you are, to make sure that you don't block access to the NYSE or that you don't block streets.  

              But on any given day, a few people can stand in front of the NYSE with signs, as long as they don't block anybody.

              •  The barricades we blocking off the streets (4+ / 0-)

                not people. They put up barricades to restrict how close we could get to the exchange.

                If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

                by AoT on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 06:15:51 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  You obviously haven't been in NYC since Rudy (4+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                One Opinion, sethtriggs, Old Sailor, AoT

                was mayor.  I used to work at Smith Barney a long time ago. There were often people protesting on the edge of the sidewalk and the private security came and literally made every one of them leave, every single time.

                Never a word was said about it and there was never a story in the news either.  And if the police actually responded (which would never happen unless the situation got out of control–IOW they wouldn't leave) it would be to defend the corporation.

                The law is useless when there's big money involved.

                The priest said, "Today's sermon is called 'Liars', but first I have a question. How many of you have read Chapter 66 in Matthew?" Nearly every hand went up. "You're just the group I need to speak to," the priest said. "There's no such chapter."

                by Back In Blue on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 06:28:50 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  I don't know what the legal basis is (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Tonedevil, Brown Thrasher

            I think "Terrorism".

            If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

            by AoT on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:47:40 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  That may be. If the restrictions are content (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              AoT, VClib

              neutral, and narrowly tailored for some legitimate government interest (like protecting an obvious terrorist target) and the protesters have reasonable alternatives for being heard, that may be constitutional.  

              •  Abortion clinics are the most (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Old Sailor, lyvwyr101, Brown Thrasher

                common terrorist target in the US.

                If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

                by AoT on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 07:31:27 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  How much of a buffer is required to (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  AoT, VClib

                  for that purpose?

                  What's the basis for thinking a 35 foot buffer is going to prevent more of those attacks than, say, a five foot buffer?

                  Could it be accomplished in a way that is more accommodating of free speech -- say, no weapons or other things like that within 35 feet of a clinic?

                  If you assume that the government has a compelling interest in preventing terrorism, then the law gets has to be narrowly tailored to meet that compelling interest, and has to offer reasonable alternatives for protesters to be heard by people outside the clinics.

                  You'd essentially have to show a real, solid basis for believing that these buffers are necessary to prevent terrorist attacks, and that there's pretty much no other effective way of doing that.  Because if the Court thinks you are using the excuse of terrorism as a pretext for preventing women entering clinics from having to hear offensive remarks from protesters, that's unconstitutional.  

                  •  Given that assault of someone who is attempting (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Old Sailor, lyvwyr101

                    to exercise their right to get an abortion and the threat thereof would fall under the federal definition of terrorism then a great many people have committed terrorism and this statute serves to protect the people so impacted. The whole reason for this statute is that this has not just been a matter of speech, it has been a matter of assault as well, as many people in the comment section here have attested to.

                    So, given that there is a clear history of terrorism in these situations. And given that this law prevents said incidents of terrorism. It seems to me that this law is more justified than any law which would protect meetings from the theoretical threat of terrorism by putting up giant walls.

                    Of course, I'm under no illusion that our legal system is about actual equality, so I don't expect this statute to stand while I fully expect the statutes and procedures that protect the powerful from hearing protest to remain in place.

                    If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

                    by AoT on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 09:24:02 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Hmmmm (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      VClib
                      Given that assault of someone who is attempting to exercise their right to get an abortion and the threat thereof would fall under the federal definition of terrorism

                      So, given that there is a clear history of terrorism in these situations.

                      If this is the case, than it's up to the DOJ to prosecute these protestors for terrorism. Has that occurred?

                       

                      it has been a matter of assault as well, as many people in the comment section here have attested to.
                      If it's a case of assault, it's the responsibility of local law enforcement to arrest these people for assault.

                      I suppose we could stop a lot of crime if we were willing to start dispensing with more civil liberties. Which civil liberties are you willing to give up in the name of stopping assault?

                      Dammit Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a grammarian. So sue me.

                      by Pi Li on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 09:21:55 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  From what other people here are saying (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Old Sailor

                        and remember these are people who have been working at these clinics, there is a serious problem with various locales not prosecuting for assault. And the fact of the matter is that I've already had civil liberties taken from me in the name of safety. I can't tell you how many times I've been corralled into "free speech zones" at protests. If those are constitutional then why not this relatively small buffer zone?

                        If knowledge is power and power corrupts, does that mean that knowledge corrupts?

                        by AoT on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 10:47:55 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

      •  The threat need only be perceived to (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        One Opinion

        be possible, I believe. Arguably so, at a minimum.
        At least according to the legal definition.

          •  Which says: (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            trumpeter, One Opinion
            Assault is an act that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent, harmful, or offensive contact.
          •  Here's another working link (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            xanthippe2, Sharon Wraight

            http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/...

            I'll excerpt as well-

            Generally, the essential elements of assault consist of an act intended to cause an apprehension of harmful or offensive contact that causes apprehension of such contact in the victim.

            The act required for an assault must be overt. Although words alone are insufficient, they might create an assault when coupled with some action that indicates the ability to carry out the threat. A mere threat to harm is not an assault; however, a threat combined with a raised fist might be sufficient if it causes a reasonable apprehension of harm in the victim.Intent is an essential element of assault.

            The bolding is mine. Unless the person saying that you're going to hell is actually Gawd, there's no ability to carry out the threat, therefore no assault.
        •  Sure- but threatening to pray for someone (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HedwigKos

          isn't really a threat.

          Either ya believe, and this person is doing you a favor by pleading your case w/ Gawd, or ya don't, and this person is making meaningless mouth noises.

          Either way, not a threat.

          Now, if they said " We'll publish your photo and the whole world will know you're a sinner", well, that'd be a threat. If they said " We'll pelt you with tomatos on the way out", that'd be a threat. And they used to get arrested for it when they did that kinda thing, so they've learned not to.

          (Trust me, the cops hate this shit as much as we do- it makes their job harder. If these folks did things that qualify as assault on a regular basis, they'd be arrested on a regular basis. There are always some folks who let their passions get the better of their common sense, but on the whole, these folk stick to the script pretty well.)

          But " you'll burn in hell" is not a threat, because the person saying it cannot condemn you to hell. Either you believe, and your salvation is between you and god as ya see her, or you don't and it's not going to happen.

          If I'm walking down the street, and somebody runs up to tell me that i must mend my wicked ways or the unicorns will eat me, have I been threatened? No- confused maybe, but not threatened.

      •  Oh really, so you won't mind if I get up right in (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sethtriggs, Old Sailor, lyvwyr101

        your face less than a foot away and start screaming how much you suck and I hate you?  Oh sure, you can try and go around me but I will just take a step to the side so good luck with that.  Oh, and if you happen to bump into me then I will press charges for assault against you.

        You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

        by Throw The Bums Out on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 07:32:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Well I've seen them exercising their (7+ / 0-)

      "right to persuade women contemplating abortion that what they are doing is wrong" as a mob blocking a clinic entrance so forcefully that they crashed the heavy glass front double doors. And I've seen them "gently and lovingly" punch a clinic escort in the stomach and try to physically remove others from surrounding a car carrying a doctor, nurse and patient.  These people are horrible.  And Scalia is an asshole.  

      Proud to be a Democrat

      by Lying eyes on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:19:37 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Film needed...except for the fanatics, most (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AoT

        Americans would be appalled by that behavior.  More Americans need to see and hear it; reading or telling about something does not have as much of an impact as seeing film.  Obviously, more Justices need to see the reality of what some women face.  

        Robber Baron "ReTHUGisms": John D. Rockefeller -"The way to make money is to buy when blood is running in the streets"; Jay Gould -"I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half."

        by ranton on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 06:22:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  He's a flunky. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Old Sailor

        "The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?”---Bob Marley

        by lyvwyr101 on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 09:46:36 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  They're beyond horrible (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Old Sailor

        and now they're looking for the legal right to get closer yet?

        Who the hell do they think they're kidding?

        "The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?”---Bob Marley

        by lyvwyr101 on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 03:55:00 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  if buffer zones hinder free speech (9+ / 0-)

    It seems like this ruling would make it illegal to enforce a buffer zone that would hinder my right to comment on anything, like, say, a justice's ruling on a case while walking into a courthouse, or on a sidewalk outside his home.  I suggest that those who oppose this ruling imitate the protected speech of those who expressively oppose legal abortions, and do so at the doors of the SCOTUS.  I think it would be informative to the justices to experience first-hand the effect of their decision.

  •  This Whole Thing Is Utter BULLcrap!! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tonedevil, lyvwyr101, Brown Thrasher

    "the streets are there for the people to voice their opinions, protest..."

    REALLY????

    SINCE WHEN???

    so that means liar SCOTUSES that I can stand on the sidewalk outside of the Supreme Court with a sign that says "You Arseholes DISGUST Me" ??

    I can do that without getting arrested in two minutes or less??

    GIMME A BREAK.

    "It is essential that there should be organization of Labor. Capital organizes & therefore Labor must organize" Theodore Roosevelt

    by Superpole on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:03:24 PM PST

  •  I may start protesting churches (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RadGal70, Tonedevil

    I'll just stand on the steps as they go inside with a big sign saying that it's evil in there and talk lovingly to them about how they're being sold a bunch of baloney.  Maybe I'll just tell them that Satan is giving the sermon?  

     How about if there were twenty or thirty people with signs getting in their face on the way in?  Heck, that's nowhere near as stressful as the experience for someone going into a health clinic.  I wonder how they'd react?  

    When truth is only a matter of opinion, advantage goes to the liars.

    by Sun dog on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:10:08 PM PST

    •  That is certainly within your First Amendment (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      AoT, VClib

      right as long as you (1) stay on the public sidewalk and don't go on church property, and (2) don't' block people from entering.

      Other than that, you are free to stand on a public sidewalk outside a church saying anything you want about Satan, proclaiming there is no God, whatever you want.

    •  Sun dog - as long as you stay on the sidewalk (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sun dog

      and don't block or impede people entering or leaving the church you would be within your constitutional rights.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 02:21:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh yes, I have no doubt of it (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Old Sailor

        This conversation just got me wondering why there hasn't been much of this.  I've mixed it up with the folks in front of health clinics and they really blow my mind.  When it's a specific church sending groups of people to harass women, why shouldn't they get a taste of their own medicine?  It's street theater, basically, but somehow I think it would be effective in terms of changing perspectives.  

        When truth is only a matter of opinion, advantage goes to the liars.

        by Sun dog on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 03:16:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  No prob, just pack heat, let the 2nd Amendment (0+ / 0-)

    solve the problem -- what could possibly go wrong?

    You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

    by Cartoon Peril on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:12:52 PM PST

  •  Those crowds are protesting (5+ / 0-)

    the practice of abortion, but they are intimidating to the women exercising their medical rights. Shouldn't they be protesting somewhere else?

    It is ridiculous to pretend that firing teachers based on student test scores, starting charter schools, giving out vouchers or implementing merit pay will overcome the challenges facing a child living in poverty. -Jersey Jazzman

    by Desert Rose on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:15:45 PM PST

  •  Really? (6+ / 0-)
    "It's America," she says. "I should be able to walk and talk gently, lovingly, anywhere with anybody."
    Can you go to any store in any mall and not be escorted out if the owners decide you shouldn't be there? Can you walk into any workplace and start talking to employees? Can you walk into any school , hospital, etc. ?

    You can't and there are valid  reasons why that don't do squat to step on your free speech.

    We view "The Handmaid's Tale" as cautionary. The GOP views it as an instruction book.

    by Vita Brevis on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:15:54 PM PST

  •  So if the SCOTUS were to throw out the Mass (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sweatyb, One Opinion, Tonedevil, lyvwyr101

    buffer zone for abortion clinics, wouldn't this also mean that buffer zones around election polling stations are also unconstitutional?

    Form follows function -- Louis Sullivan

    by Spud1 on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:16:25 PM PST

  •  Arrest the bastards harassing women (4+ / 0-)

    The buffer zone was weak tea. The people screaming and harassing women can get a permit. They can go to jail when they harass and assualt people.

    The problem is the cops.  If they did not treat the women like sluts and murderers, and protected them the threatening protesters would end up in jail.

    And those that sit and pray, no one minds.

    thanks,
    Jean

  •  I think two things are problematic here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib

    I think the two things problematic about the law (with Justice Kagan and Justice Kennedy, for example, if you read the accounts of the argument) were (1) the size of the area on public sidewalks where you couldn't go (35 feet seemed excessive to Kagan); and (2) the notion that people who supported abortion rights - clinic employees -- WERE permitted to talk to patients about anything, including contradicting the protesters, on that public sidewalk within the 35 feet.  That seems a bit too much like a distinction based on content -- and content based distinctions are absolutely impermissible.  Laws can't treat speakers of one viewpoint differently from speakers with other viewpoints.

    Based on what I've read today, if I had to guess, I'd guess maybe 6 or 7 votes to strike the law as overly broad, but acknowledging that some narrow buffer zones  are permissible-- a few feet,  perhaps, enough to make sure nobody blocks anybody but not far enough where you can't be heard speaking in a normal tone of voice -- as long as the buffer zones don't make exceptions for people who are likely to say things that are pro-choice to the women while the women are on the public sidewalks (no content-based restrictions).    

    •  my favorite quote from the scotusblog write up (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      One Opinion, Old Sailor, VClib

      Responding to you since you brought up Kagan and 35 feet:

      Justice Kagan, who at one point had asked what was wrong with a state simply “having everybody just take a step back” from a protected site, did suggest that thirty-five feet might well be too big a required separation.  “That’s pretty much this courtroom,” she said (misjudging the actual size by some fifty to sixty feet.) “That’s a lot of space.”
      scotusblog

      For a typical person, 35 feet is only roughly 6 body lengths.  Or only 5 feet more than what you need for a first down in football.

      •  I think her point was (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        VClib

        that it's far more than necessary if the goal of the law is ONLY to prevent physical intimidation.  

        The 35 feet looks more like the intent of government is to prevent the women outside of the clinic from easily hearing what the protesters are saying.  And that's impermissible.  

        •  you seemed to miss the point of the quote (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Old Sailor

          She is saying 'that's a lot of space' in a context where she thinks 35 feet is 90 feet.  Sure maybe 90 feet is more than necessary, but we're only talking about 35 feet.  You can carry on a conversation without yelling at 35 feet.

          •  No the point is that every restriction on speech (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            VClib

            has to have a legitimate reason for it.  Preventing physical intimidation is a legitimate reason.  Preventing women from hearing offensive things from protesters is not a legitimate reason for the law.

            And 35 feet is far, far, far more restrictive than 5 feet.  

            What's makes 35 feet a necessity over, say, five feet?  You can say, five feet means that for most people, that's out of reach for physical contact. So you can justify five feet on that basis. What's the justification for 35 feet   if not to try to prevent women from having to see/hear the protesters -- to try to keep the protesters away from the women they want to say something to when both are on public sidewalks?  

            If that's your justification for the law, that's unconstitutional.  Government cannot say, I want to prevent certain people from having to listen -- in a traditional public forum like a sidewalk -- to speech that they don't like.  Government cannot say, when two people are on a public sidewalk, we will pass a law saying one can't come close enough to say something offensive to the other.  

  •  Mass needs to provide some police protection (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sweatyb

    and stop relying on these dubious lines.

    You have exactly 10 seconds to change that look of disgusting pity into one of enormous respect!

    by Cartoon Peril on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:26:20 PM PST

  •  What bullshit. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    One Opinion, Brown Thrasher

    Number one, people have a right to go to a doctor's appointment without being harassed. Other people's free speech rights are not relevant.

    With Scalia's logic, Christian Scientists could harass parents taking their children to doctor appointments and Seventh Day Adventists could harass paramedics outside emergency rooms.

    No one is contesting the forced pregnancy folks' right to advertise, write in newspapers or make speeches. The right to free speech and the right to personally harass a citizen in the exercise of her right to a  legal medical procedure are two different things.

    Number two, clinic staff can talk to patients without receiving prior permission because the patient is going to them for a procedure.

    On the bright side, given that this puts Scalia on the side of some labor unions, his head might explode.

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." -- Sinclair Lewis

    by expatjourno on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:33:31 PM PST

    •  They can do this. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VClib
      With Scalia's logic, Christian Scientists could harass parents taking their children to doctor appointments and Seventh Day Adventists could harass paramedics outside emergency rooms.
      As long as they stay on public sidewalks, do not block entrances, and do not physically intimidate people, yes, a Christian Scientist can stand on a public sidewalk outside a pediatrician's office and tell everyone he sees walking on that sidewalk with children that if that child sees a doctor that child will burn in hell forever.

      Same for sidewalks outside emergency rooms.

      Perfectly legal.  

    •  Christian Scientists and Seventh Day Adventists (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Old Sailor, VClib

      can do those things.  The difference is that generally they don't.

  •  Buffer zones should never be legal (0+ / 0-)

    For Abortion protestors or Occupy Wall Street. If it's on public property then it should be allowed.

    http://callatimeout.blogspot.com/

    by DAISHI on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:33:33 PM PST

  •  Okey-dokey (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PsychoSavannah, lyvwyr101
    "It's America," she says. "I should be able to walk and talk gently, lovingly, anywhere with anybody."
    No more protest zones, right? I can walk and talk gently and lovingly with anybody - a President, a Senator, a Koch brother, a CEO...

    “Texas is a so-called red state, but you’ve got 10 million Democrats here in Texas. And …, there are a whole lot of people here in Texas who need us, and who need us to fight for them.” President Obama

    by Catte Nappe on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:38:28 PM PST

    •  Yes--actually (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Old Sailor, Catte Nappe

      this could open so many doors........................

      I never had the opportunity to talk gently and lovingly to Bush, but perhaps the High Court can provide me with the opportunity.

      Since they seem to be highly opportunistic lately.

      "The people who were trying to make this world worse are not taking the day off. Why should I?”---Bob Marley

      by lyvwyr101 on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 10:04:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is not about abortion....otherwise it would (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Old Sailor, lyvwyr101

    not include birth control as well.   These dweeps want a big scarlet letter on everywoman and control because they lost control when women started voting their minds, working and did not take the kitchen and barefoot routing any longer.  

    Do what we do to Westboro church cult... Get people in place to protest the protestors.  

    We the People have to make a difference and the Change.....Just do it ! Be part of helping us build a veteran community online. United Veterans of America

    by Vetwife on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:42:28 PM PST

  •  No buffers at the polls? At Federal Buildings? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades, ranton, Old Sailor

    In my state electioneering within 200 feet of the poll entrance is banned. Is that unconstitutional as well?

    Will citizens who only want to educate our federal employees about the wickedness of war and the killings of innocent civilians now have the right to participate in gauntlets on every sidewalk at every federal building?

    Will those wishing to inform people about global warming get to do the same?

    Can those wanting to educate people about workers rights gather and communicate on the steps of Walmart's headquarters, day after day?

    Others have said they expect this will be another Bush v. Gore decision narrowly tailored to meet the political desires of this activist court, and they may be correct. After all, this is the same court that declared corporations people and that the possibility of disenfranchising voters no longer exists.

    •  Government can set aside certain areas (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VClib

      as "no free speech" zones, but they have to be content neutral, and they can't be overly broad -- more than necessary for the government purpose.  And they have to allow people reasonable alternatives to be heard.

      That's why you can't have demonstrations, for example, on SCOTUS grounds.

      So, yes, you can say no "free speech: of any kind on this certain space on these certain days (election days).  That's a very narrow, restricted time and it's content neutral.

      Here we are talking about the public sidewalks (an area that is traditionally one of the most available for free speech) and it's not limited to a few days a year.  

      Even then, I suspect that a smaller buffer zone -- a few feet, enough to prevent physical contact or to prevent people from blocking clinics  -- would be ok.

      What seems to be problematic is a 35 foot buffer zone indefinitely, seems to be intended to prevent the pro-life groups from being heard by women as they are on the public sidewalks outside of a clinic.  Government can't pass laws with the intent of trying to prevent a certain group from being heard.  

      •  and that doesn't apply here because why? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Old Sailor, Tonedevil

        Content neutral: check. No protesters of any kind in the area.
        Not overly broad: check. The areas are well defined and small.
        Reasonable alternatives: check. They can speak everywhere else.

        What seems to be problematic is a 35 foot buffer zone indefinitely, seems to be intended to prevent the pro-life groups from being heard by women as they are on the public sidewalks outside of a clinic.
        Funny, my interpretation is that the law is designed to keep the sidewalks outside of abortion clinics from turning into screaming matches that have a tendency to escalate into disturbances and violence.
        Government can't pass laws with the intent of trying to prevent a certain group from being heard.
        This seems laughable to me. The freedom of speech doesn't include freedom to choose your audience. The law does not prevent them from speaking. They can say whatever they want. They can talk to whomever they want.
        •  Because is government COULD (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          VClib

          pass laws preventing a certain group from being heard by an audience that doesn't want to hear them, government could pass a law saying that living wage protesters can't protest on the sidewalk outside of McD's or outside of Wal-Mart.  Certainly, McD's and Wal-Mart don't want to hear them. In your words, the freedom of speech of protesters for higher pay "doesn't include freedom to choose your audience," so they can't choose Wal-Mart or McD's as their audience if Wal-Mart or McD's doesn't want to hear them.  At least, that would be the law under your view.  

          The problem with views like yours is if you give government the power to make decisions like that, you are giving them the power to make decisions will restrict the speech of people you like as well as restricting the speech of people you don't like.

          •  a substantial difference (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sethtriggs, Old Sailor, lyvwyr101

            If you could figure out how to phrase a law preventing protest in front of Walmart or McDs as to not be overly broad, I'd be fascinated to see it.

            But you're not playing fair. We've already established that laws restricting speech in certain areas can be Constitutional. So, in theory, a law forbidding protest in front of McD's would be legal.

            The question before the court is why this particular law should be found unconstitutional.

            So far the main argument seems to be that the anti-abortion activists believe they've been deprived of the right to speak to the clientele of these businesses. First, I'm not aware of such a right. And second, I'm unclear about how this law prevents such a conversation. Do their targets only exist on the sidewalk outside of Planned Parenthood?

        •  Not exactly (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          campionrules, VClib
          Content neutral: check. No protesters of any kind in the area.
          But the law likely isn't content neutral.  While it may say that no protesting is allowed within 35ft, it's clearly designed with pro-life demonstrators in mind. The SCOTUS specifically looks at such things when they are analysing the Constitutionally of a law. In short, they're not stupid.

          Otherwise, using your logic, a State could pass a law saying no protesting of any kind is allowed on sidewalks anywhere in the interest of "public peace and safety". You could say that's "content neutral" on its face, since it's not discriminating against a particular POV, but the court would see through that as well.

          Not overly broad: check. The areas are well defined and small.
          The fact that the areas are "well defined and small" is not the issue. The issue is whether the law is more restrictive than is necessary to achieve the State's legitimate interests. In this case, 35ft may seem reasonable, but if it's anymore than is absolutely necessary to achieve that interest ("one degree more"), it's too much.

          As others have mentioned, the court likely wouldn't have a problem with a zone of say, 10ft, enough to allow people to enter the clinic unimpeded, which they certainly have a right to do. But there's no right to be free from people saying things to you, even hurtful, spiteful things, in public.

          That's why the court sounds skeptical of 35ft...it's seems to be more of a restriction on the rights of the protestors than is necessary to secure the State's interest in securing access to the clinic.

          Reasonable alternatives: check. They can speak everywhere else.
          You're on slightly stronger ground here, but again, the protestors have a basic right to speak in a public place free from Governmental restrictions.  If they choose to protest on a sidewalk outside an abortion clinic, that's their choice. The State can restrict that right somewhat to achieve a legitimate interest.  But again, 35ft away is probably more restrictive than it needs to be to secure the interest.

          If they can speak "anywhere else" then why not say 50ft? Or 100ft? Or a mile?  The restriction can't be any more than is necessary.

          I don't believe a majority of the court would be inclined to invalidate all such laws, but the Mass law is particularly restrictive, which is why apparently even the liberal justices on the court are skeptical about it.

          Dammit Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a grammarian. So sue me.

          by Pi Li on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 05:04:23 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  any more than is necessary to do what? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Old Sailor, lyvwyr101

            The state has two interests here.

            The first, and most obvious, is allowing the people who work and use these clinics to enter and leave unmolested. And, as you say, a 10 foot restriction would likely be sufficient in most cases.

            The second, and barely mentioned, is that protests in front of abortion clinics seem to be unique in both becoming permanent disturbances and fomenting violence. (The disturbance and violence doesn't always originate from the anti-abortion side.)

            And it would seem to me that the state has a fair argument that 35 feet is appropriate to accomplish both goals.

            •  Perhaps (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              VClib
              The second, and barely mentioned, is that protests in front of abortion clinics seem to be unique in both becoming permanent disturbances and fomenting violence.
              But if these protests are becoming as consistently violent as you say they are, then that's a question for law enforcement. If protestors are becoming violent, and the LEO's in Mass aren't doing what they need to protect their citizenry (within the constants of the Constitution), that's something for the people of Mass to take up with law enforcement.

              If some union members on a picket line harass strike breakers, make them uncomfortable, etc...even engage in violence, would you advocate a law requiring striking workers to be moved away from public sidewalks in front of a place of business? Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of the strike? A striking worker has the right to say anything they wish to someone crossing a picket line..they don't have the right physically assault them, or prevent them from crossing. If they do, that's battery and it's a matter for law enforcement. The same goes for abortion protestors.  

              Again, certainly people have a right to be able to access these clinic free from physical restraint or intimidation. But they don't have right to be protected from hurtful speech. So my suspicion is that the court would allow a buffer zone which secures the right of people to access these clinics, while only restricting the right of those wishing to protest to the minimum extent necessary.

              Dammit Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a grammarian. So sue me.

              by Pi Li on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 06:55:31 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I wouldn't support that law (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                lyvwyr101, Old Sailor

                but I wouldn't think it violated the first amendment either.

                If protestors are becoming violent, and the LEO's in Mass aren't doing what they need to protect their citizenry (within the constants of the Constitution), that's something for the people of Mass to take up with law enforcement.
                And that same objection could be made about every other restriction on speech. Which again, is not the question, we're not debating whether the state has the right to restrict speech, that's settled law.

                We're debating whether the state can restrict speech in front of abortion clinics. And in fact, we're not even debating that. We're debating the number of feet from the entrance.

                At which point I think we're talking less about a First Amendment issue and more about a "problem" that can only be addressed in the legislature.

                •  Well (0+ / 0-)
                  we're not debating whether the state has the right to restrict speech, that's settled law.
                  Of course. The state can put time, matter and place restrictions on speech for a legitimate purpose to the minimum extent necessary to achieve that purpose.
                  We're debating whether the state can restrict speech in front of abortion clinics. And in fact, we're not even debating that. We're debating the number of feet from the entrance.
                  What "we're" debating, again, is how much the State can restrict the speech.
                  At which point I think we're talking less about a First Amendment issue and more about a "problem" that can only be addressed in the legislature.
                  But it's precisely the actions of the Mass legislature that is before the SCOTUS.

                  Dammit Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a grammarian. So sue me.

                  by Pi Li on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 07:48:38 AM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  very ludicrous to me (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    lyvwyr101, Old Sailor

                    the Supreme Court weighing in on precisely how far away from the door of an abortion clinic the founders of this nation meant for protesters to be allowed to stand.

                    I think, in this case, the court needs to find harm (or the potential for harm) to the plaintiffs in order to override the legislature. And, as I've made clear, I do not think believe "not being allowed to talk to certain women entering the abortion clinic" can be constituted as harm.

                    Not that I wouldn't put overturning the law based on the number of feet past them. The Roberts court seems supremely confident in their ability to highlight technicalities to make the narrowest rulings imaginable. I think they would be fools to do that, inviting any number of court challenges based on metrics determined by the legislature, but I wouldn't put it past them.

                    •  Well, that's not how it works (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      VClib
                      very ludicrous to me the Supreme Court weighing in on precisely how far away from the door of an abortion clinic the founders of this nation meant for protesters to be allowed to stand.
                      The Constitution doesn't say anything about radio or TV either, but I'm pretty sure the First Amendment applies there as well.

                      And if you want to go down that road, the Constitution doesn't say anything about abortion at all. It does however, mention speech. It' in the first  of the First Amendment, so I think the founders kind of considered it important. ;)

                      I think, in this case, the court needs to find harm (or the potential for harm) to the plaintiffs in order to override the legislature.
                      In this case, "harm" is the restriction of their First Amendment rights by the State. At least, that's what they allege. Whether it's an unconstitutional restriction is up for the court to decide.

                      Dammit Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a grammarian. So sue me.

                      by Pi Li on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 08:19:39 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  I appreciate you engaging me on this (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        lyvwyr101, Old Sailor

                        I am not making the argument that the First doesn't apply to abortion clinics. What I am saying is that making a First Amendment case out of the difference between 10 feet and 35 feet is, from my perspective, essentially legislating from the bench.

                        In this case, "harm" is the restriction of their First Amendment rights by the State.
                        It's clearly established that the state can restrict their First Amendment rights in this way.

                        So is there an additional harm caused by restricting speech at 35 feet that would be ameliorated by restricting speech at 10 feet? Will the court determine where that harm is actually incurred, do you think? Is it at 11 feet? 15? 25? 34.5?

                        Perhaps they would be so kind as to provide an equation that will allow legislators to determine the appropriate feet-to-freedom ratio.

                        That's why I said it was "ludicrous".

                        •  You're looking at if from the wrong perspective (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          VClib
                          So is there an additional harm caused by restricting speech at 35 feet that would be ameliorated by restricting speech at 10 feet? Will the court determine where that harm is actually incurred, do you think? Is it at 11 feet? 15? 25? 34.5?
                          Both 10 feet and 35 feet are restrictive in that both are placing a "restriction" on the plaintiffs rights to protest...something I assume we agree the plaintiffs have a right to do in general.

                          Now, we also all agree that there are sometimes legitimate reasons for the government to place some restrictions on our rights, and the SCOTUS has consistenly upheld that. But they idea is that when they do place limits on those rights, those limits should be the least restrictive to achieve the legitimate objective of the government (in this case, allowing patients access to the clinics).  So how can the government achieve that goal while at the same time infringing on the rights of the protestors to the minimum extent necessary.

                          In this case, to the court it might seem reasonable that 5 or 10 feet is enough room to allow people access to the clinic, while 35 feet is likely more restrictive than it needs to be. It doesn't matter that the protestors may be able exercise their rights 35 feet away as they are from 5 or 10 feet away...or 5 miles away from that matter. The point is, IF the government is going to infringe on our rights, it should not be more than is absolutely necessary to achieve their legitimate objective. The idea is that the rights are ours, guaranteed by the Constitution, and that if some legislature is going to try to infringe on them, they damn well better do it in the most limited, narrowly tailored manner possible.

                          I hear you on "legislating from the bench"..but that's not really what's going on here. If the Court invalidates the Mass law, they probably aren't going to come back and say "5 feet is good". They'll likely just come back and say "35 feet is too restrictive", or something along those line, and perhaps with some general guidance on what would acceptable. But it would be up to the legislature to come up with something that can pass Constitutional muster. The court won't rewrite the law for them.

                          It might seem ludicrous, and sometimes you do end up with ludicrous results. But if you think about it, why should we give up one more inch of our rights than is absolutely necessary?

                          Dammit Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a grammarian. So sue me.

                          by Pi Li on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 10:28:02 AM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                  •  Correction (0+ / 0-)

                    Meant to say...

                    Of course. The state can put time, MANNER and place restrictions on speech for a legitimate purpose to the minimum extent necessary to achieve that purpose.
                    Sometimes spell check is the enemy. :)

                    Dammit Jim, I'm a lawyer, not a grammarian. So sue me.

                    by Pi Li on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 08:11:50 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

    •  KY - what is preventing those protestors (0+ / 0-)

      from doing what you are suggesting?

      The polling place restrictions are constitutional. One day and a compelling public interest. But the other protests you suggest are constitutional.

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Thu Jan 16, 2014 at 02:31:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Anit choice protestors are not practicing free (8+ / 0-)

    speech, It is terrorism and harassment. They harass women who are not even seeking abortions.
    Do women going to private clinics have to put up with the BS! NO.

    I remember the 1990s. I never did clinic defense, but I had friends who did. Those anti choice protestors were getting really nasty and dangerous, that is why they created the buffer zones.

    Here are a few trues stories which were video taped at the the PP clinic in my county:

    1. anti protestor in a wheel chair,  with a cane, saying the rosary, trips women as they go by her into the clinic. After the protest, she folds up her chair and walks off.

    2. Anti choice terrorists, grabs a visibly pregnant women goign into PP clinic for pre-natal services, knocks her down, causes her to miscarry a few weeks later..

    3. male anti protestor wears a priest collar, but was NOT a priest all,but an unemployed mental case.

    4.OH the best is the guy with the wooden cross and dolls.... or the 6-foot fetus posters...really nutty

    •  Those films need to be seen by Americans with (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sethtriggs, Brown Thrasher

      the images of the women being harassed/attacked blurred.

      Robber Baron "ReTHUGisms": John D. Rockefeller -"The way to make money is to buy when blood is running in the streets"; Jay Gould -"I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half."

      by ranton on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 06:32:50 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  there is a natinal buffer zone law (0+ / 0-)
  •  Patient Escort (8+ / 0-)

    Hi. I work as a patient escort at Planned Parenthood. Those people are crazy. They are there twice a week where I work. They spew the most vile things. The two that stick in my mind are: "Planned Parenthood sells the aborted fetuses to cosmetic companies. Second is that "Planned Parenthood gives out defective birth control pills so that women have to get abortions because they are in the abortion business." I help these women because when I was young I was able to walk into a Planned Parenthood Clinic without having to run the gauntlet of these people. The buffer zone is needed. The men that are with the women would be very upset if they had to run the gauntlet. Things could get messy.

    He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice. Albert Einstein

    by Cairns on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 06:10:06 PM PST

    •  I may have found by "cause" for retirement. (0+ / 0-)

      Robber Baron "ReTHUGisms": John D. Rockefeller -"The way to make money is to buy when blood is running in the streets"; Jay Gould -"I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half."

      by ranton on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 06:34:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Exactly the same for me - both the escorting (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sethtriggs, Old Sailor, lyvwyr101

      and not being harassed when I had an abortion in 1973.  During my escort days I took a friend for an abortion, too.  Luckily there were only a couple of protesters that day and they were busy harassing someone else.  

      •  ditto (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Old Sailor
        and not being harassed when I had an abortion in 1973
        I think if every woman who had a safe abortion in the 70's would stand up and be counted (as I've seen in some auditoriums) that would be an excellent display.

        Much like conservatives tend to be anti-LGBTQ rights until someone close to them comes out, perhaps we could have the same effect?

  •  What is the Supreme Court feet blockade? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ranton, lyvwyr101

    Because they have one too.

  •  I want to hurl abuse at people outside churches! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lyvwyr101

    So there's a lot riding on this decision for me.  

    It's not the side effects of the cocaine/I'm thinking that it must be love

    by Rich in PA on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 06:50:35 PM PST

  •  I hope this law is overturned (0+ / 0-)

    Frankly, although these anti-abortion protesters are scum, I support the basic principle of their right to protest on public property.

    If this law is overturned, then it would set a precedent for other, more egregious laws, such as those that restrict protests within X feet of a church or funeral.  And those really need to go away.

  •  Free Speech Should Not Be the Issue (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sun dog, Old Sailor, AoT

    I'm appalled at the controversy being framed as a free speech issue. It's not. Protesters are free to speak their mind to anyone who will listen. But the law doesn't require anyone to listen.

    I've escorted at a PP health center for over ten years. Our clinic is surrounded on its two open sides (the other two are neighboring buildings) by the clinic's own parking lot, so we, in effect, have a "buffer zone." And it works wonders. Protesters cross the line onto PP property at their peril—we'll call 911 and file charges for trespassing and we have the video to back us up.

    95% of patients arrive by car and park on-site. But those 5% who park off-site or arrive on foot pose 99% of the problem. When patients are on the public sidewalk, protesters (sidewalk counselors in their parlance) get in the face of patients, scream at them, frighten them, try to intimidate them, and block their path to the clinic, making escorting patients into the clinic without fisticuffs difficult.

    The argument in this case should have drawn its meat from the long standing police practice—which I suspect has a long series of court cases to support it—of separating two conflicting groups of demonstrators onto different turf, like one on the south side of the street and one on the north side. The issue is not free speech—the protesters should be able to scream their bile and lies at the top of their lungs, but not up to the front door of the clinic and not in the face of arriving patients. Patients should have the right to claim a personal space of at least 10 feet. Any intrusion of that should be consider legally equivalent to trespassing or simple assault.

    I should add that the proverbial "little old ladies" among our protesters are the most obnoxious, smugly superior, insulting, and offensive. And they clearly mean to be—except when the police arrive and they wrap themselves in sugar for the cops.

    •  Actually, it is a First Amendment issue. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      VClib

      The law cannot try to prevent people - in a traditional public forum, like a sidewalk, from saying things to you that you don't want to hear.  

      If you are somewhere like a public sidewalk, there's every possibility that someone else might say something that you find offensive, or insulting, or horrible.  Government cannot pass laws against that.  And you have no "right" to be "free" from someone else's offensive comments in those kinds of public areas.  

    •  Thank you for this comment, especially ... (0+ / 0-)
      I should add that the proverbial "little old ladies" among our protesters are the most obnoxious, smugly superior, insulting, and offensive.
      I'm not quite there yet (i.e. elderly), but I find it really offensive when a person's age is used as an assumption (or excuse) for an illegal or offensive action.  Like feeling intimidated enough to shoot someone, because they are younger and presumably more fit.
  •  I think I'm getting it. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lyvwyr101

    Citizens require a female body to realize their rights and women are legally obligated to fulfill those rights because slippery slope.  Which amendment is that one?

  •  Same dissembling used by the RWNJ's to gut the VRA (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lyvwyr101, Brown Thrasher, Old Sailor

    14 years ago Hill vs Colorado:

    In a 6-3 opinion delivered by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court held that the Colorado statute's restrictions on speech-related conduct are constitutional.

    The Court concluded that the statute "is not a regulation of speech. Rather, it is a regulation of the places where some speech may occur." "Although the statute prohibits speakers from approaching unwilling listeners, it does not require a standing speaker to move away from anyone passing by.

    Nor does it place any restriction on the content of any message that anyone may wish to communicate to anyone else, either inside or outside the regulated areas.

    It does, however, make it more difficult to give unwanted advice, particularly in the form of a handbill or leaflet, to persons entering or leaving medical facilities," Justice Stevens wrote for the Court. "The unwilling listener's interest in avoiding unwanted communication has been repeatedly identified in our cases." Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony M. Kennedy dissented.

    ..so the Hill vs Colorado decision makes it more difficult for RWNJ's to "offer" unwanted advice... or bombs, stabbing attempts or a lethal bullet or three, that Scalia overlooks as he drones on about: "..having deprived abortion opponents of the political right to persuade the electorate that abortion should be restricted by law.."

    The RWNJ's both on the SCOTUS and off, seem to think that using a kindly looking older anti-choice advocate to create the fiction of this being the protecting of gentle persuasion by anti-choice advocates, will cover the fact that  these religious nut jobs are all about force and violence and the repeal of womens reproductive rights

    They have killed people (here is Wiki's list over the years) - innocent people with their so called fundie beliefs and "freedom to persuade".

    Once again, as in the Supreme court RWNJ/republicans gutting of the Voting Rights on the transparently wrong determination that 'racism is a thing of the past' Scalia and his activist cohorts are is lying and are dead wrong - again

    We must stop this, another fundie branch of republicans corruption

    Thx MB

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