Lewis Diuguid

June 27, 2014

Supreme Court makes flawed ruling on abortion clinic buffer zones

The court’s decision could open the door to Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church anti-gay protesters breaking out of their restrictive buffer zones, too.

A lot of U.S. Supreme Court rulings make no sense. Add the one against buffer zones outside women’s clinics to that pile.

The court on Thursday unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law that had set a 35-foot zone outside of clinics for women, where abortions are performed, saying creating that area violates the First Amendment.

So it is illegal to protect women and health care professionals from abusively vocal and sometimes violent anti-abortion protesters at women’s clinics. But it is OK to create similar “free speech zones” to keep Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church anti-gay protesters from disrupting such things as funerals for military service personnel or keep anti-war protesters from being too camera-close to the U.S. president’s appearances?

Something smells here of a double standard.

Yet, the Supreme Court said the Massachusetts law makes it impossible to converse with women walking to abortion clinics. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote, “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.”

Fred Phelps’ followers could argue the same thing and even win, according to the latest court ruling. So could protesters wanting their share of media attention during the president’s appearances.

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