Skip to comments.Anti-Free Speech Zones Used to Silence Pro-Lifers Could Come Back to Haunt Liberals
Posted on 01/18/2014 1:23:20 AM PST by Slings and Arrows
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday for McCullen v. Coakley, a case in which anti-abortion activists argue that their First Amendment rights have been violated by a 2007 Massachusetts law that bars any person from entering or staying in fixed 35-foot-buffer zones around entrances to abortion clinics.
By any person they mean any person who says something negative about abortion, because there are exceptions for people going into or coming out of the building, people using the sidewalk to get somewhere else, law enforcement officials, and clinic employees. If you fall into one of the categories of exception, you are allowed to speak in the zone. If you dont, the government says you are not allowed to speak.
Justice Alito tried to explain the absurdity of this law to Jennifer Grace Miller, the lawyer representing the government, with the example of two women entering the zone. One is an employee, one is not. The employee says, Good morning. This is a safe facility. The other woman says, Good morning. This is an unsafe facility. Only one of these women has committed a crime under the Massachusetts statute. (Guess which one).
Mark Rienzi, who argued the case against the buffer zones, told the Court that the zone is, a place where the government claims it can essentially turn off the First Amendment for some people but not others. Justice Scalia described it as a dead speech zone.
What is perhaps most disturbing is that the Massachusetts law was created by people who call themselves liberal. It is also being defended by an assortment of liberals from the ACLU to Planned Parenthood. Which raises an obvious question: Is it now liberal to oppose free speech?
In an interview Rienz, told me, The shocking thing is the embrace of the government as able to make this choice that .wherever abortion goes the sidewalks become a place where you can walk, but [you must] shut your mouth. This would have been like saying, Wherever there is a segregated lunch counter we will put a zone outside, where you cant speak about segregation because its too upsetting to customers.
The state has argued that this law is necessary to prevent obstruction and congestion going into the abortion clinics. But obstructing an entrance is already a crime. Abortion rights supporters have also argued that women need to be protected from violent acts of anti-abortion rights protestors. But violent acts are already illegal and anyway, its hard to imagine that a painted line around an entrance is actually going to stop a violent maniac. What about someone screaming in the face of a woman entering the clinic, causing her to feel fear? Thats already illegal under anti-harassment statutes.
The state is required to use the least restrictive means to accomplish its goals. Instead of enforcing the many laws already on the books, they have concocted the kind of overreaching law that should send chills up the spine of every American.
Now, if you are an abortion-rights supporter you may still be thinking, I dont want anti-abortion advocates bothering women going into abortion clinics, so Im okay with this. Thats an understandable sentiment. But even if this law was constitutionaland it isntone has to consider the implications of accepting the government exercising such a broad power that infringes on constitutionally protected free speech.
Ironically, a law championed by liberals could end up having dire implications for many liberal causes. Will Potter is a journalist and author of Green is the New Red: An Insiders Account of a Social Movement Under Siege, which chronicles the political, legal, and public relations strategies that threaten even acts of nonviolent civil disobedience. He told me that the Massachusetts bill, is setting the precedent of applying this approach to the animal rights and environmental movements. Despite being pro-abortion rights, Potter says of the abortion clinic buffer zone, I would oppose these kinds laws [because] its about restricting speech. He points out that, Oregon passed a law to allow loggers to sue protestors who disrupt business using the same kind of language its identical to [the Massachusetts law].
If the Supreme Court were to uphold the Massachusetts law, its not hard to imagine businesses lobbying to create zones where union members are not allowed to speak, but workers for the business are. Businesses could use the same logic used in McCullen: the picketers are disrupting business and upsetting customers. So, government, please silence themeven though they are standing on a public sidewalk.
Potter described how liberal activists have made this mistake before. He said, Back in the late 1990s Planned Parenthood was using RICO statutes against anti-abortion protestors. A lot of civil rights people were saying this is going to come back around to us and sure enough RICO has been used against animal-rights protestors. The [lawsuits] have failed, but it costs mountains of cash to defend against.
In an interview, the First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abramswho is a supporter of abortion rightsdescribed the Massachusetts law as being as bad as first amendment cases have gotten in a while. He said of the liberal groups supporting the law, They undervalue the First Amendment and substitute political liberalism as their guiding principle instead.
What goes around, comes around. Which is why its always best to stick to first principles and avoid ends justifies the means reasoning. The first principle here is that the government does not have the right to control the content of speech, no matter how uncomfortable that speech may make certain people. Abandon that principle and your free speech may be next.
FReepmail me to subscribe to or unsubscribe from the SCOTUS ping list.
I believe the law should be used against Unions who try to block the entrance to a factory during a strike.
Free speech is a tool which the left will use to get power but once obtained, that power is used to stifle speech and consolidate power.
The history of China is illuminating. Under communism that country murdered or sent to reeducation gulags people who sought to exercise speech and the country forced abortions upon its women. As the country now is somewhat liberalized, it is freeing up speech and some limited areas and it is repealing its one child policy.
History shows us that it is abortion rather than free speech which is the higher value for the left. Free speech is the enemy of collectivism and abortion is a tool of collectivism. Abortion is a tool which destroys the traditional role of women and therefore of the family and therefore of a building block of society independent of the collectivist whole. Any institution independent of the state is a threat to the state in the eyes of the leftist.
Since when does the left apply standards to themselves to which they hold the right? Just like the occupy losers trespassing for days and getting away with it, while elderly veterans were forcibly turned away from their own memorials.
"The issue is never the issue. The issue is the revolution."
Unknown, quoted by David Horowitz
It is also the left that wants to ban offensive speech (offensive to them) labeling it hate speech.
This seems to be a habit with Mass, that they pass a rule which subtly punishes conservatives somehow, and it comes back and bites them in the ass later. The most memorable instance was the special-election rule change they passed to protect Kerry’s seat when he ran for prez, which then virtually guaranteed that a Republican would get Kennedy’s seat after he croaked. The libs desperately tried to walk the change back, so the special circumstance would only ever help the Dems, but couldn’t make it stick.
I remember that one. IIRC, part of the reason that Scott Brown got elected was the Dem-dominated legislature got a little too cute for even Massachusetts voters.
I seriously think that I would not be surprised if Kirsten Powers defects to our side of the political spectrum not too long from now. Her eyes are being opened to what liberalism is all about.
Conservatism gets all the pretty women. ;^)
It wasn’t that it was too cute for Mass voters (who are largely libs who supported the rule anyway). It was that back in 2004, the Mass legislature stripped the governor of the power to appoint replacements for vacated seats, so Romney couldn’t put a Republican into Kerry’s vacated seat. Then in 2009 when Kennedy died, the new Liberal governor was barred from putting a lib in to replace the Swimmer, and Brown was able to defeat the execrable Coakley (who ran a bad smear campaign that turned off voters).
The way the legislation was worded, it didn’t discriminate between a seat vacated due to a campaign and a seat vacated due to death (which probably *would* have been too cute even for Mass libs), and therefore applied in the Swimmer’s death even though Kennedy actually had the gall to lobby to change the law 9 days before his death, despite his having been the primary impetus in getting the law passed in the first place.
So it’s not so much this specific case, as it is one more example of the libs being in so much of a hurry to punish Republicans that they don’t think of the ramifications of their actions, and end up looking petty and partisan (or more so, as is so often the case).
What is perhaps most disturbing is that the Massachusetts law was created by people who call themselves liberal. It is also being defended by an assortment of liberals from the ACLU to Planned Parenthood. Which raises an obvious question: Is it now liberal to oppose free speech?At the start of the Twentieth Century the term "liberal" meant the same in America as it still does in the rest of the world - essentially, what is called "conservatism" in American Newspeak. Of course we "American Conservatives" are not the ones who oppose development and liberty, so in that sense we are not conservative at all. We actually are liberals.
But in America, "liberalism" was given its American Newspeak - essentially inverted - meaning in the 1920s (source: Safire's New Political Dictionary). The fact that the American socialists have acquired a word to exploit is bad enough; the real disaster is that we do not now have a word which truly descriptive of our own political perspective. We only have the smear words which the socialists have assigned to us.
And make no mistake, in America "conservative" is a negative label in the PR sense - just as surely as we know that every American marketer loves to boldly proclaim that whatever product he is flogging is NEW!
Thank you for the summary.
All shield laws which exist or are proposed to give journalists protections not applicable to you and me are anti-constitutional. I put journalists in scare quotes to signify that journalist is a suspect category - you can systematically perform all the functions of journalism you want - but if you are not simpatico with the Borg of journalists who report within the AP (including all member newspapers and broadcasters), you are not a journalist, not objective. McCain-Feingold presumes to extinguish free speech rights during political campaigns if you arent working for wire service journalism (tho it doesnt, AFAIK, use that term). And McCain was on nobodys top ten list of things the public wanted - but journalists wanted it, so plainly Establishment "journalism wanted it, and got it.
Even journalisms claim of objectivity is an attack on free speech, in the sense that it is an effort - a very successful, ongoing effort - to suppress arguments not congenial to the journalism worldview. Especially if those arguments are well-supported by facts and logic.
“The Supreme Court is hearing a case about a Massachusetts law barring protesters from entrances to abortion clinics. If its upheld, unions and environmentalists could be next”.
when Pigs fly. Liberals are a protected people. They can do and say what they please and when it pleases them.
Good article and well written......Sort of surprised it was written by Kirsten Powers ....
This title is simply incorrect. Liberals never have to suffer the consequences of their choices or their decisions. There is now one set of laws and interpretations for liberals, and another for the rest of us.
Would be interesting except for the fact that it won’t be enforced against the libs.
What should be disturbing to ersatz liberals? Liberality is characteristic of the much maligned, former Western Civilization dominated by DWMs, dead white males.
Its multicultural replacement in which all cultures no matter how un-free are homogeneically equal, is most intensely expressed by New Left trailblazer Herbert Marcuse’ s partisan tolerance. Anything goes as long as it is not politically disapproved old culture. This is the essence of postmodern “liberalism”, no shock at all, just standard operating procedure.
The intentionally misnamed Liberalism has nothing to do with liberty. It’s about control.
Lefties believe the law will only be used against people Lefties don’t like. After all, they practically own the nation’s judiciary.