Into the (abortion) danger zone

Into the (abortion) danger zone

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley—to absolutely no one’s surprise—has declared that wider restrictions of the free speech of pro-lifers in Massachusetts are not, in fact, restrictions on their free speech. Her brief in response to a lawsuit by pro-lifers makes the same argument she made before the Legislature last year when she backed the law that expanded abortion clinic buffer zones from 18 feet to 35 feet.

What the abortion clinics and their pet politicians want is to use the coercive power of the legislature and courts to silence an inconvenient opposition

(The buffer zones prevent pro-lifers from approaching or talking to anyone with that distance from an abortion clinic’s entrance or a 6-foot floating buffer around people going in or out of a clinic. How you’re supposed to guess the intention of someone walking down the sidewalk in the general direction of the clinic is beyond me.)

Of course, Coakley is trying to feed us baloney and tell us it’s prime rib.

The “act does not ban any expressive activity, but instead ‘merely regulates the places where communications may occur’ during clinic business hours,” Coakley wrote in the brief.

Typical political doublespeak. So-called “expressive activity” is being banned within a particular place. And, yes, that’s permissible under the Constitution. No one has the right to say anything at any time. Yelling “Fire” in a crowded theatre is the standard analogy. But let’s not beat around the bush here.

The “suggestion that under the act ‘leafleting and solicitation [are] completely banned from public places’ is incorrect,” the brief said. “… Plaintiffs, and everyone else, may continue to hold signs, pray, sing, chant, leaflet, converse, and engage in any other kind of lawful speech so long as they do so from outside any buffer zone.”

I haven’t seen the original complaint she’s quoting, but this is disingenuous too. At how many feet of buffer zone does our free speech become effectively nullified? 35 feet? 50 feet? 10,000 feet? What if the whole state of Massachusetts were one, big buffer zone? We’d still be allowed to hold signs, prayer, etc., as long as it’s not within the boundaries of the state. Free speech!

If we’re pushed beyond the limits of the human voice (or eye, in the case of signs) such that we can no longer effectively communicate our freedom of speech has become irrelevant.

The question should be: What is harassing about a sign or a prayer or a conversation or any kind of lawful speech.

Speech should be restricted only for a very compelling public safety and order issue. Yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre puts lives at risk because it can cause a panic. Making a false police report puts police and the public in danger as they search for a non-existent criminal. Using “fighting words” puts people in danger because it cold cause violence.

How does a Hail Mary endanger a life? How does a level-headed request for a conversation with a woman about to abort her child risk public order?

If inconvenience and undesirability were to be the guidelines, I’d like them to pass laws against aggressive panhandlers and petition holders and people canvassing for politicians with whom I disagree and so on. But part of living in a free, democratic society is putting up with speech we dislike, disdain, or disagree with.

What the abortion clinics and their pet politicians want is to use the coercive power of the legislature and courts to silence an inconvenient opposition whose success is success at saving lives—and siphoning coins from their coffers—depends on being able to warn these mothers of the truth of what they contemplate.

If they have to ravage the Constitution to accomplish this goal, so be it.

  • The “buffer zone” concept can be pretty dangerous. There are so many buffer zones say for guns in some states you can possess them but there is no place that is not 1000 feet from a school, church, store, bank, restaurant,etc. The only one that can own a gun is a guy with 10 acres of land.

    Not to hijack the thread, but to illustrate that buffer zones, by history are a slippery slope. Once established, they rarely regress. Similar laws in FL and GA make it impossible for convicted sex offenders to live in the State (again not to hijack) but buffer zones tend to only expand.

  • Here’s my suggestion for a buffer zone:

    How about creating a 15-foot buffer zone around every unborn baby, prohibiting the performance of any abortions within that zone?

    Hey, we’re not restricting abortions, we’re just limiting the location where you can perform one!