Ok I’m reading the McCullen opinion, and already in the first sentence I have a problem. This is going to take years – it’s 52 pages.
In 2007, Massachusetts amended its Reproductive Health Care Facili
ties Act, which had been enacted in 2000 to address clashes between
abortion opponents and advocates of abortion rights outside clinics
where abortions were performed.
Um, no. That makes it sound like a matter of political theater, or debates that turned into clashes. The clashes were between abortion opponents and women attempting to enter the clinics where abortions were performed. The abortion opponents try to stop them.
There are escorts, who are there to try to protect such women from the protesters, but they wouldn’t be there if the protesters weren’t so intrusive and aggressive.
But more substantively…p 3:
The buffer zones serve the Commonwealth’s legitimate interests in maintaining public safety on streets and sidewalks and in preserving access to adjacent reproductive healthcare facilities. See Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western N. Y., 519 U. S. 357, 376. At the same time, however, they impose serious burdens on petitioners’ speech, depriving them of their two primary methods of communicating with arriving patients: close, personal conversations and distribution of literature. Those forms of expression have historically been closely associated with the transmission of ideas. While the Act may allow petitioners to “protest” outside the buffer zones, petitioners are not protestors; they seek not merely to express their opposition to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations with women about various alternatives. It is thus no answer to say that petitioners can still be seen and heard by women within the buffer zones. If all that the women can see and hear are vociferous opponents of abortion, then the buffer zones have effectively stifled petitioners’ message.
There’s an issue here. I guess it doesn’t arise that much because people don’t act like anti-abortion protesters much. It was an issue with the Hari Krishnas once upon a time, I think…
The issue is to do with our right to move around in public freely without other people deliberately blocking us, pestering us, harassing us, soliciting us, getting in our way. It’s similar to the issue I had with street harassment in Paris as a teenager.
Imagine if there were always a bunch of people on the sidewalk in front of your front door, hassling you whenever you arrived home. That would be hellish.
Apparently the First Amendment protects their “right” to do that.
I’m not convinced. Even leaving abortion aside – I’m not convinced. It’s this business of “they seek not merely to express their opposition to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations with women” – hey I don’t give a fuck what other people “seek” to do if doing it entails their getting all up in my face. The word “consensual” frankly doesn’t belong there, and borders on insulting. I’m not at all convinced that people in general have a constitutional right to try to insist that I “consent” to listen to them.
The law is a clumsy instrument to deal with harassment, but not dealing with harassment at all is a seriously bad idea.