Supremes Nix Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

Members of the Supreme Court seem to be thinking alike.

Yesterday, they handed down a unanimous decision requiring search warrants before law enforcement can go through cell phones. Today, they handed down another unanimous decision overturning a Massachusetts law that requires protestors at abortion clinics to stand back 35 feet from the clinic. The Court ruled that the 35-foot protest-free zone violates the First Amendment.

I don’t know if this is a harbinger of a court that is reconsidering the long-term narrowing of individual American’s rights under the Bill of Rights or not. Hopefully, it is. And hopefully, we’ll see another ruling in support of First Amendment rights when they hand down their decision on Sebelius vs Hobby Lobby on Monday.

In the meantime, today’s ruling is a hopeful sign.

The most important ruling will be Monday when they hand down their opinion on the Hobby Lobby/HHS Mandate. I hope, for many reasons, but most especially for the sake of my country, that the Court limits the HHS Mandate and allows the First Amendment to work. It will be a tragedy if it doesn’t.

From CBS News:

The Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Thursday that a Massachusetts law setting a 35-foot protest-free zone outside abortion clinics violates the First Amendment.

The court in the past has allowed for buffer zones around facilities like health clinics, but Chief Justice John Roberts noted that the Massachusetts law restricts access to sidewalks and other public space. “Such areas occupy a ‘special position in terms of First Amendment protec­tion’ because of their historic role as sites for discussion and debate,” Roberts wrote.

The government is allowed to limit speech in public spaces, so long as there is a significant interest in doing so, and as long as the limits are narrowly tailored and leave open alternative channels for speech. The Massachusetts law did not meet the latter part of those standards, Roberts wrote.

“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,” the summary of the ruling says. “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.”

Moreover, Roberts wrote, the state could have enacted other laws that protect abortion clinic patients without restricting freedom of speech to that extent. “The Commonwealth has not shown that it seriously undertook to address the problem with less intrusive tools readily available to it,” the justice wrote.

While the ruling was unanimous, Roberts and the court’s four liberal justices struck down the Massachusetts law on narrow grounds. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote a separate, concurring opinion that Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas signed onto. Justice Samuel Alito also wrote a separate, concurring opinion.

The case was brought forward by Eleanor McCullen, a woman in her mid-70s, and a group of other anti-abortion rights activists who stand outside of clinics to try to dissuade women from getting abortions.

A Government at War with its People: France Legalizes Gay Marriage

Ay 101377277 France legalized gay marriage today. According to a Reuters news report “legions of officers and water cannon stood ready ahead of the final vote,” bracing for pubic reaction. 

The vote came after the Claude Bartelone, President of the French National Assembly ordered the expulsion of a protester. In one of the most ridiculous statements I’ve read in a while, he said, “Only those who love democracy are welcome here.”

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This is not the way to pass legislation of this magnitude. It is also not the way to work for social change. Several states in America have passed gay marriage referendums by popular vote. This has been accepted by everyone, including those who opposed the referendums. States in which the courts or the legislature have tried to impose gay marriage have met resistance. Most of the time, these efforts have been overturned by popular votes.

Gay people certainly do have the right to petition their government for change. However, governments which impose draconian changes in social practice on an unwilling population are not representing their people.

When a government has to call in the police and set up high-pressure water hoses to protect itself from its own people before a vote, it maybe needs to consider that the vote itself is unwise.

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The French politicians who have voted for this measure were elected to their positions, but they are not behaving like representatives of the people. They also, in my opinion, are creating unrest and discord in their country which can only harm it.

American government has made similar mistakes. The Brady Bill of the early 1990s was a mistake because the American people did not want it. I’m not talking about the merits of the bill. I am talking about the merits of government of, by and for the people.

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Roe v Wade was a judicial fiat which stopped the on-going public debate on abortion by imposing a “decision” on the people that they were not ready for. The resulting culture wars have fractured this country and done enormous harm to it. None of this would have happened if the Court had simply let the democratic process in the states work this issue through.

With very rare exceptions (I can think of only one in the history of this country) the people, if they are allowed to do so, can and will work these things out in a manner that allows everyone to live together in harmony. However, when governments begin to impose unwanted solutions to debates that reach into the intimate lives of their citizens in the manner that the French government did today, they harm the country they claim to love. They also step over the boundaries of their moral authority as representatives of the people.

From Reuters:

PARIS (AP) — France legalized gay marriage on Tuesday after a wrenching national debate and protests that flooded the streets of Paris. Legions of officers and water cannon stood ready near France’s National Assembly ahead of the final vote, bracing for possible violence on an issue that galvanized the country’s faltering conservative movement.

The measure passed easily in the Socialist-majority Assembly, 331-225, just minutes after the president of the legislative body expelled a disruptive protester in pink, the color adopted by French opponents of gay marriage.

“Only those who love democracy are here,” Claude Bartelone, the Assembly president, said angrily.

 

Culture Warriors

I am creating the Culture Warrior Award to honor two stalwart culture warriors. These men stand for life, and they are in the fight for the long haul. They are two of Public Catholic’s finest Culture Warriors. We need more courageous blogs like theirs. You can find them at: http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com/ and http://scpeanutgallery.com/


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