Should the government allow pro-life advocates to freely protest in front of Planned Parenthood clinics without a barrier even if it means harassment of the patients?
Teen pregnancy, rape, defective birth control, or maybe just an accident. Abortions potentially play a major role in thousands, if not millions, of peoples lives. Some are pro-life while others are pro-choice, but how far can one group go to push their opinions onto others? When does pushy turn into dangerous? And how far can the government go to prevent protesters from going too far?
Pro-life vs Pro-choice is without a doubt one of the most prevalent hot topic issues we see today, but where does the Supreme Court draw the line between protection and freedom to protest. In Massachusetts, this was the essential question for many. A law that was enacted in 2007 created a 35-foot barrier zone outside entrances to planned parenthood abortion clinics as a response to a rich history of harassment and violence. Pro-life advocates were furious and challenged the law saying it violated the first amendment and their right to state their opinions and protest. Yet many of these pro-life advocates said that they were not protesters, but petitioners. The law denied them the right to do so.
On the other hand, it has been noted that these ‘petitioners’ aren’t always peaceful, in fact, they can get aggressive and violent fairly easily when they are disagreed with or can’t change the woman’s mind. This was also the main point that Massachusetts’ Planned Parenthood Clinic brought up in favor of the laws staying in the act. They brought up many past examples of violence targeted towards the Cilic, and even a shooting.
So how does the first amendment play into all of this, and how did the Supreme Court decision to go about such a sensitive topic? Well, this isn’t the first time that the Supreme Court has handled the buffer zone debate. According to NPR news, “Fourteen years ago, the court upheld Colorado’s 8-foot “floating” buffer zones around individuals to protect patients and staff entering and exiting these clinics. Since then, buffer zones have prevented demonstrators from closely approaching patients and staff without permission.” But this time around for the Massachusetts ruling the court wasn’t so liberal with their decision.
Although the Massachusetts situation is different in the sense that their buffer zone will not allow the demonstrators within 35 feet, the issue is still the same. Their situation closely resembles the same buffer zone issue in St. Louis, where the bill was rejected, according to KMOV4 News. But the border isn’t as long as is seems to be in Massachusetts, 35 feet is similarly the same size as an average school bus, and wouldn’t take more than 10 seconds to walk the full length of. It also allows anyone and everyone to walk through it, as long as they intend on entering the clinic or simply crossing over the buffer zone. The Supreme Court ended up ruling against the buffer zone due to it violating the petitioners right to protest. This didn’t settle well for Planned Parenthood leader Marty Walz, who thought the Court was being hypocritical. The Supreme Court has its own buffer zone, not allowing anyone to demonstrate, speak, or protest on his or her block. Or how there is a “150-foot buffer zone around any polling place on Election Day.”
Although the border does technically prevent some to their right of protest, is it worth the violence, the shootings, and the harassment of women going through one of the hardest decisions of their life? Should the Supreme Court be more lenient with the buffer zone, considering they too use it to their advantage? The buffer zone issue has little to nothing to do with people’s views on abortion, but how we view one another’s safety. You would think the Supreme Court would care more about the women’s lives that are potentially being put in danger than their views on whether or not abortion is right.
Totenberg, N. (2018). NPR Choice page. [online] Npr.org. Available at: https://www.npr.org/2013/12/20/255870199/supreme-court-considers-legality-of-abortion-clinic-buffer-zones [Accessed 29 Sep. 2018].
News, K. (2018). St. Louis aldermen reject bill to create a buffer zone around Planned Parenthood. [online] http://www.kmov.com. Available at: https://www.kmov.com/news/st-louis-aldermen-reject-bill-to-create-buffer-zone-around/video_479d0f52-c6a6-587a-9035-0ac79a3b1896.html [Accessed 29 Sep. 2018].