26 June 2014

SCOTUS rules that harassment and intimidation are constitutional

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law establishing a 35-foot buffer zone protecting abortion clinics. The buffer zone was established to prevent protestors from too aggressively interfering with the clinics' day-to-day operations.

The Court said that the protestors have a First Amendment right to occupy the sidewalks surrounding the clinics. And, in doing so, they essentially ruled that the protesters have a constitutional right to harass and intimidate the clinic's patients and staff.

The Court's opinion suggests that Massachusetts should have instead addressed the issue using "less intrusive tools readily available to it," like having the police ask the protestors to move if they are blocking access to a clinic.

The First Amendment is important, but I don't think our Founding Fathers intended it to be an excuse for harassment and intimidation.

What about the right of clinic workers to freely enter their workplace without having to call for a police escort? And what about the right of their patients to freely access the constitutionally legal services that the clinics provide?

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation, today pointed out what may be the worst likely result of this ruling: "This decision will just embolden more outrageous violence against women and health care providers."

Alarmingly, the Court's decision was unanimous.

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