Current Events, Pro-Life

The Supreme Court Strikes Down Violation of Free Speech

Pro-Life_Demonstration_at_Supreme_CourtI don’t often write about politics, but today’s unanimous Supreme Court decision to strike down an MA law which restricted pro-life speech within 35 feet of an abortion clinic has me smiling. This was a clear violation of free speech and I frankly think it says something about the desperation of the pro-choice case-makers.

It seems that, at least in MA, the desperation got to the point where they realized if you can’t make your case from science or logic (links to posts arguing this), the next best thing would be to simply muzzle the opposition. Thankfully, in this case, justice was served and the blatant disregard for freedom of speech was overturned.

Let me reiterate, this was a unanimous decision. What does that say about the legal status of such an attempt? I’m not talking about objective morality, I’m speaking only of the law of the land. Why even attempt to keep such a law around?

Frankly, I think it really is a matter of the realization that when one’s case is so blatantly a house of cards, an illegal attempt to thwart free speech is the last rejoinder. Let’s be clear on this issue:

Free speech is not a matter of freedom for those with whom you agree–it’s a matter of, well, actually free speech. 

And yes, I think that applies to those who are pro-choice.

Let’s read your thoughts below (follow the comment policy–there are rules for your free speech here!).


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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.


15 thoughts on “The Supreme Court Strikes Down Violation of Free Speech

  1. Crazy news! It makes me think of the rules about funeral pickets from you-know-who. How did those communities get laws passed saying people couldn’t protest at a funeral if it is a violation of the law? Maybe I’m not seeing how they aren’t related?

    Posted by Timothy Henderson | June 26, 2014, 7:39 PM
  2. Praise God for this court ruling! Glad there are still judges with legal sensibilities!

    Posted by SLIMJIM | June 27, 2014, 2:37 AM
  3. Wonderful news! Such unanimously clever judges.

    To whit:

    Now I can do my ‘sidewalk counseling’ at polling stations! And the Occupy movement can come on back and offer their sidewalk counseling to Wall Street. And yes, funerals are the perfect place for even more counseling.

    Posted by tildeb | June 27, 2014, 2:09 PM
    • You’re right to bring up some issues here, but I’m wondering exactly what the thrust of your argument is. Exactly what part of the decision do you find wanting?

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | June 27, 2014, 3:34 PM
      • What the court has ruled is to once again permit harassment, threats, and physical obstruction in the name of free speech. These common behaviours by the ‘pro-life’ zealots (and I use that religious term intentionally because it is the most accurate term available) were the very reason why the buffer zone was introduced: to address the legitimate safety concerns of those entering and leaving the clinic. The same buffer zone principle is used by government, business, and public events all the time without any loss of responsibly exercised free speech (35 feet does not harm the exercise of free speech; it harms the exercise of entering and leaving a clinic safely).

        This ruling is not reasonable.

        That this ruling makes you smile is a cause of great concern to me because it shows support to reduce the ability of law to impose a reasonable responsibility on people who wish to harass, threaten, and obstruct the rights of others in the name of maintaining a right for themselves. There must be compromise to have all rights reasonably respected. This ruling tilts the legal playing field.

        Posted by tildeb | June 27, 2014, 4:11 PM
      • I understand this is a “hot-button issue” and may be more difficult than usual to think about purely logically, but I suppose I’ll try.

        One – I understand your concerns. I HATE it when people harass, threaten and obstruct the rights of others. I believe those things should NOT be permitted. But isn’t harassment, threatening and obstruction of other’s rights ALREADY illegal and punishable? For example, people harass and threaten people all the time (really!) at lots of bus stops in the town I just moved from. The acts THEMSELVES should definitely be punished, but should we then agree with making a new rule that says something like “I know you’re here to harass, threaten and obstruct the rights of others, but NOW you’re going to have to step back 20 ft. before you do it.” I understand the inclination to want to JUST DO SOMETHING to make it stop, but it doesn’t seem to make perfect sense to respond in that way. If an individual or group is doing an illegal activity, should we use the law that has existed for a long time to put them in jail? I mean, I still had to ride the bus 5 days a week so I had to be at the bus stop, and I knew there might be those things going on. I DID think someone should call the police if someone was breaking the law, but I never expected there to be a barrier between those riding the bus and those harassing. It was simply “either you’re breaking the law or you’re not. If you are, we’ll call the police and you’ll go to jail.” But we all had a right to be there before a law was broken.

        Also, people tend to want to make whatever they believe is ethically right a law. Pro-lifers want Roe vs. Wade repealed – they think the law should reflect their morality. But is this how the law is supposed to work? Obviously we’re split as a nation on the morality of the termination of a life on one hand vs. the rights of a woman to choose on the other. If we can’t even come close to agreeing on the issue, how can we make a law that we all think is proper? I believe harassment is wrong, and thankfully it is already illegal. But do I wish there was an even more stringent law that eliminated the VERY POSSIBILITY of harassment happening? Maybe. But what other laws would I trample on getting that law passed? Maybe it would be superior MORALLY, yet legally impermissible b/c it conflicts with the existing constitution. I think that is what the judges must have been thinking in this case (?) I personally think we would eliminate a lot of problems by making stronger laws in some things and I might be okay with going against the constitution to gain what I perceive as a greater overall benefit. But the legal system simply does not work that way.

        It gets ESPECIALLY interesting with this particular issue b/c most pro-lifer’s tend to lean to the right politically and pro-choice to the left. But the whole reason pro-lifer’s are even there picketing in the first place is (hopefully) that they are trying to defend the right of a human to live, yet they are the one’s reported as treating others so poorly at these protests. Why fight to treat the baby well but not others? The other irony is that the political left is usually the one’s that fight to the bitter end for free speech and tend to push that envelope pretty hard sometimes. It’s interesting when you back away from the issue a little bit.

        So this leaves me with a lot of questions, a few being:

        1. If one believes it is morally correct to picket in the hopes of saving a life, should they still do it if it was illegal?
        2. Is one justified in trampling the rights of one if it will protect or save another?
        3. Should we create laws to uphold moral beliefs? If so, whose morality do we pick? (especially if the nation is divided 50/50 on that issue)
        and on and on…

        Side thought: I’ve seen a lot of people protest abortion clinics over the years (in real life, not TV) and I have never seen the kinds of behavior the way that you say the original, overturned law was there to prevent. Of course it is happening, but that is my personal observation from 44 years of experience. It’s too bad that a few bad apples really seem to be spoiling the whole in this case. Get your act together, people!!! It’s that small percentage that ruins it for everyone!

        Posted by Tim Henderson | June 27, 2014, 10:15 PM
      • Hey Tim, why aren’t you – or, as far as I can tell, anyone from the religious community – making the case to remove the 35 foot buffer for houses of worship? Nary a peep about some terrible loss of free speech, eh?

        Funny, that.

        Unlike what happens commonly at abortion clinics”, people are not allowed to chain themselves to the house of worship’s doors, sit there at the entrance with our pitbulls in the spiked collars, can’t jump out from bushes and scream in people’s ears that they’re going to hell, and do all the typical harassing, threatening, and obstructing you will find daily at abortion clinics. Like most pro-lifers, you frame your viewpoint based not on any principle of fairness and reciprocity and what’s reasonable but pervert exactly these to excuse infringements on others because you think the target doesn’t deserve fair and equal treatment in law. And you show this not by saying that such behaviour shouldn’t be tolerated by law enforcement officials (because it very often is), but because you assume houses of worship deserve this privilege by not complaining about the buffer!

        Again, funny, that.

        You haven’t the first clue about the real people in real life who utilize these clinics, and you fill up your assumptions with religiously inspired righteousness rather than medical knowledge. You see, abortion isn’t a moral issue and it certainly isn’t your moral issue (unless you’re considering getting one, which I doubt). Abortion is a medical issue because it’s very often a mandatory procedure for all kinds of medical reasons and, as such, has very good reasons not to include you and your moralizing in the healthcare of another. That you assume you should have a place between a woman and her doctor indicates the extent of your incredible effrontery and galling patriarchy.

        Posted by tildeb | June 28, 2014, 7:31 PM
  4. TILDEB said that abortion is not a moral issue, but it “is a medical issue because it’s very often a mandatory procedure for all kinds of medical reasons and, as such, has very good reasons not to include you and your moralizing in the healthcare of another.”

    I just happened to look up “reasons for abortions” on Google and the first thing that came up was from WebMD.

    The most common reasons women consider abortion are (According to WebMD):

    *Birth control (contraceptive) failure.
    *Inability to support or care for a child.
    *To end an unwanted pregnancy.
    *To prevent the birth of a child with birth defects or severe medical problems. Such defects are often unknown until routine second-trimester tests are done.
    *Pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.
    *Physical or mental conditions that endanger the woman’s health if the pregnancy is continued.


    *On average, women give at least 3 reasons for choosing abortion: 3/4 say that having a baby would interfere with work, school or other responsibilities; about 3/4 say they cannot afford a child; and 1/2 say they do not want to be a single parent or are having problems with their husband or partner (The Guttmacher Institute).
    *Only 12% of women included a physical problem with their health among reasons for having an abortion (National Abortions Federation, 2009).
    *One per cent (of aborting women) reported that they were the survivors of rape (National Abortion Federation, 2009). – courtesy Abort73

    So, aside from any moral considerations, it would seem that abortions occur far more often as a matter of convenience, not “all kinds of medical reasons.”

    With regards to the actions of protesters at abortion clinics, I have seen far less radicals acting abusive than those who simply hold signs, pray, and beg women not to go in. On the other hand, you’ve got your “Occupy” crowd and the pro-choice activist. I’ve seen what they can do. For some reason pro-choice activists have a penchant for stripping down and chaining themselves to pulpits. Funny, that.

    Posted by Anthony Baker | June 29, 2014, 2:52 PM
    • Anthony, all of those reasons have a direct affect on the health of the woman. None are separate from it.

      It’s not my job to police your health issues and your access to any reproductive medical services that address them . And it’s certainly not a moral issue to force you to submit your reproductive health concerns under my moral standards. You especially won’t like them if they don’t – first and foremost – respect our mutually held rights and freedoms. The reverse is also true even if you think your moral standards should trump our commonly held legal rights.

      I won’t meddle in your healthcare and, in return, have a reasonable expectation that you won’t meddle in mine. It’s not YOUR job to determine what is and is not my reproductive health concerns. Hard to grasp, I know, and even harder to accept on principle.

      But because many people don’t or won’t recognize this reasonable position of mutual respect and seem unable or unwilling to control their behaviour around these clinics, some rules are necessary to help those who can’t or won’t help themselves to a forced buffer of 35 feet of respect… regardless if you assume abortion is a moral issue that demands accepting harassment, threats, and obstruction as the price women seeking reproductive healthcare must tolerate in the name of free speech. The same principle is widely applied and just as widely accepted; only around abortion clinics is this widely used buffer suddenly a great threat to free speech. That’s how we know this unanimous ruling is a southern digestive product of a north facing bull.

      Posted by tildeb | June 29, 2014, 6:33 PM
      • I find it hard to avoid a moral and ethical path when you make the claim that “all of those reasons have a direct affect on the health of the woman.” I have to wonder what on earth you could NOT justify for the sake of a woman’s “health.”

        The big sticking point to this whole argument, however, is that you give no inclination that you believe the life of the child has any bearing. Everything I have read leads me to believe that you don’t believe what is in the mother has any rights, but is simply a surgical issue which can be resolved. If that was all a baby in the womb was, then I, too, would see it as ridiculous to try to interfere in any way with one’s “health.” But babies are not tumors, hangnails, or internal warts – they are human beings.

        You said that it is not my job to determine what is and is not your reproductive health concerns. When it comes to YOUR health, you are correct. But, as noted above, you are not just talking about your health, but also the health of another human.

        It concerns me when one person can arbitrarily determine, based on his/her convenience, when another person lives or dies, and that’s why we have laws against murder and manslaughter. It is never right to kill someone because you might be stressed for the next 18 years. For crying out loud, there are people in prison who killed criminals invading their homes! They are in prison because they felt threatened and responded with deadly force, yet mothers can kill a baby every ten months as long as they have the money to pay the clinic – because of possible “mental health” concerns. It only makes sense if your definition of a child even 30 seconds before birth is sub-human.

        I will continue to support the peaceful protesting of abortion clinics for the sake of the little lives being chopped into pieces and spread out like a bunch of fish bait on a table, which is anything but peaceful. I will continue to support the protesting of abortion clinics because I believe it IS a moral and ethical issue, even if those I’m protesting in behalf of find no wrong in what they are doing. However, I will not support violence, vandalism, etc.

        Ultimately, ironically speaking, you talk about not wanting anyone to meddle in your healthcare, but now we have a government that wants to do nothing less. Now THAT’s funny (or sad, whichever you want).

        Posted by Anthony Baker | June 29, 2014, 8:01 PM
      • I know you find it hard to avoid a moral and ethical path when it comes to reducing the rights of another fully autonomous and legally equal person, but that is what you’re rationalizing in the name of something that is not actual but potential. You equate the potential of a fertilized egg to that of the actual person carrying it and then rationalize the reduction of rights in that actual person so that can impose forced birth to bring the potential into the actual regardless of the cost to the actual person. This potential is, in fact, what you think you are ‘protecting’ when, in fact, you’re advocating for a removal of legal autonomy of the actual person to suit your moral and ethical path. And you are trying to impose that path on everyone by abusing the law to achieve the ends you cannot achieve by reason and mutual respect. This advocacy is reprehensible if you value your own and actual individual autonomy to BE a moral agent! You are sacrificing your rights and freedoms in the name of ensuring rights and freedoms.

        As crazy as that line of reasoning is, you may do this… for yourself.

        By all means, give away your individual autonomy, give away your individual rights, give away your freedom to be responsible for yourself and by all means do it in the name of protecting children. But you go one step too far to insist that everyone else should do as you do and try to get the law to impose this on everyone. You DON’T have that right.

        I don’t care what rationalizing you do, what moral and ethical path you think you’re following to take away my rights and freedoms. No path you name is worth granting you that power. I won’t do it and no person who values individual rights and freedoms should comply with such an unreasonable, immoral, unethical demand you advocate.

        I know perfectly well that you’re going to disagree vehemently with what you consider my caricaturing of your position and refer to the vision you have in your head that shows you to be a champion of vulnerable children. Relying on this vision and believing it to be reflective of reality is going to always impede any ability for us to reach a principled consensus because you will be unable to appreciate why the potential you defend is not the actual that I defend, the actual that you rely on to advocate for the potential! You are in fact advocating a loss of the actual in favour of the potential becoming actual! And you will empower your unprincipled position not with good reasons that stand independent of your vision – because they don’t – but remain protected from reasoned arguments with a moral covering armored against any and all reasonable incursions.

        If you value life for equality rights, legal freedoms, and the inherent dignity of personhood, then your vision fails on all counts for the actual person who is pregnant. In other words you are trying to argue that in order to champion the personal autonomy of the fertilized egg, it is moral to reduce the personal autonomy of the carrier. This is a clue you choose to ignore because it makes no sense. In the 60s it was argued that villages in Vietnam had to be bombed into oblivion in order to save them. You wish to use the same reasoning here, to eliminate personal autonomy (of the mother) in the name of saving the personal autonomy (of the fertilized egg).

        Can this be the case?

        Well, another clue is the very strong correlation between those who claim the pro life stance and advocate imposing laws against abortion and a host of anti-life policies (such as the blanket right to bear arms, support of the death penalty, advocate against public health insurance, empower climate change denial, and so on). Once you give away the principled stand for those values of personal autonomy regulated in a fair and reasonable manner in favour of obtaining a specific end you prefer (that can only be achieved by unfair and unreasonable legal forbidding), then it’s perfectly understandable to easily support other policies contrary to the principled value of personal autonomy regulated in a fair and reasonable manner to achieve whatever ends you choose to call ‘moral’.

        This is the seductive power of tyranny couched in terms of morality and how so many good people end up supporting tyrannical policies.

        Posted by tildeb | June 29, 2014, 11:01 PM
      • That’s some very clinical and sterile thinking, I must say. Following your very impressive argument to it’s logical conclusion, you equate a fully-formed, full-capable, fully-functioning infant in the womb with a “potential” person, not an “actual person.” There are laws on the books, even ones argued by Senator Obama, that approve of withholding life-supporting care from a victim of a failed abortion – a baby shivering and crying on a metal table. I mean, you know, the poor mother who partied away the night 9 months ago might lose her college scholarship, so if saline or scissors to the skull don’t work, just let the 8-pounder starve – we wouldn’t want to harm the health of the “autonomous” one paying the bill, would we?

        Posted by Anthony Baker | June 30, 2014, 1:22 PM
      • And that’s why there are reasonable limits on abortion having to do with states being viable. From the legal standpoint, you are not a person until you are born (which is why we differentiate by terminology between a fetus and a baby, between in utero and ex utero) because you must first be separate to be considered autonomous in order to have any legal rights at all. And it also reasonable to place stepped legal restrictions even on an autonomous individual based on how much autonomy that individual can responsibly self-provide… reasonable concerns like age and mental ability.

        What is too often lost in this kind of discussion is the heart-wrenching decisions women must face and then live with the consequences of those decisions. It is of fundamental importance to understand that abortion in all its forms is first and foremost a medical issue in that rules laid down for moral considerations very often utterly fail to take into account why medically necessary exceptions must be made to remain moral! This is the great failure of the catholic position that ends up aiding and abetting the intentional deaths of real people in real life – mothers and fetuses – in the name of upholding some religiously elevated moral concern. A strict forced birth law kills people who die for no other reason than medical neglect in the name of some vague morality (ironically called pro life) as well as cause untold suffering to those directly involved.

        I know it’s hard to back off and let people most affected have control over their own lives. Here in Canada, we avoid the abortion debate as much as possible (we have just as many zealots against abortion per capita as the States) and refuse legislation about it to be tabled. We allow abortion – like contraception – to be a medical service provided between doctors and patients. Our rate of abortion services used is paltry compared to the US so, as hard as it may be to understand, by allowing individuals and their doctors to be responsible for their reproductive healthcare, the abortion rate is very low. Pregnancies – with all of its risks – are celebrated because all of us are pro life when the intention of the person pregnant is to produce new life.

        You seem to think that by allowing unrestricted and publicly funded abortion services (combined with free and easy access to contraception and publicly funded sex ed curriculum throughout elementary and secondary schools) we will end up in some terrible state when all the evidence seems to indicate exactly the opposite: if you want to reduce convenience abortions, then provide convenient birth control and arm people with sexual knowledge. That – and not ever greater legal restrictions and moralizing impositions – really does reduce abortions to the level where most are medically necessary interventions.

        In the same way that if we want to improve driver safety and make our roads less dangerous for all, we need to educate new drivers with good materials, so too if we want to reduce convenience abortions we need to do our part in ways that produce what we want. Reducing the number or unwanted pregnancies is a really good place to start. Waving placards and quoting scripture and condemning the moral character of the pregnant woman who seeks these services isn’t the way. Changing the law to make these procedures more difficult to obtain and more intrusive by reducing women’s rights isn’t the way. Getting rid of a 35 foot buffer zone isn’t the way. And if you really care about reducing abortions that could be carried to term successfully and in a loving family environment, then support public policies that have been demonstrated to do exactly this.

        Posted by tildeb | June 30, 2014, 7:43 PM
  5. JW, if you find that my last comment was too inflammatory, it’s fine with me if you delete it. It just blows my mind how those who are pro-life can be accused of “rationalizing” when rationalizing is all the other side is doing! All for the sake of convenience they justify murder and label it a “woman’s health issue.” On top of that, they argue that a woman’s “health” can consist of anything under the sun which may make her feel uncomfortable or put out. How can they seriously watch an abortion procedure or view an infant born alive and held in a doctor’s hand and not be appalled? I just don’t understand the mind darkened by sin, blinded by the worship of self. It’s like trying to understand the mind of Joseph Mengele, or simply the mind of those who threw their newborns into the arms of Moloch. I just don’t get it.

    Posted by Anthony Baker | June 30, 2014, 1:33 PM


  1. Pingback: Abortion: My View & Info | The Recovering Legalist - June 30, 2014

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