The high court ruled that the state law, enacted in 2007, imposed “serious burdens” on protesters who wish to speak with arriving patients.
I tend to think of the First Amendment as protecting me from going to jail for saying something like "Dick Cheney is a fraud who profits from death and destruction and the Iraq War was just another profit venture for him". This ain't nothin' - it's actually quite a lot, and a protection not available to citizens in many other countries.
I don't really find myself fretting over whether someone is restricted from blocking the sidewalk in order to sell me something - whether it's the latest crappy brand of gum, or the beliefs of their church, or LaRouchian political nonsense, or even to sign me up for Greenpeace. I accept that some of these people will occasionally hang out in the otherwise pleasant park where I like to walk on my lunch hour, and they may even annoy me at times, but that's okay. It's a small price for living in a free society.
But, aren't there already some sort of laws in most places that prevent people from blocking sidewalks?
And how in the world is "free speech", "freedom of assembly", etc. interpreted to mean someone can walk up to me and get in my face when I don't want to talk to them? I'm not going to call the cops on panhandlers, who I assume do what they do out of being disadvantaged (and normally panhandlers don't insist anyway), but if someone tries to talk to me to sell me something and I indicate "not interested" and they follow me and keep asking, that is harassment and I don't see how it is "protected". ESPECIALLY if they get too close to me - into my personal space, i.e. in my face. And if they touch me, that is assault, in my book, certainly if I have already indicated that I am not interested in interacting with them.
More than that, being frankly not the most "sociable" person on the planet, I do not acknowledge that a random stranger has any "right" to interrupt my thoughts and bother me when I'm walking on a public sidewalk. In other words, they do NOT have a "right" to speak to me, except in an emergency for my safety or the safety of others; that people sometimes do this is merely a generally accepted annoyance, not a "right". In my opinion.
So, I don't get why the First Amendment has anything to do with whether protesters have a "right" to speak with arriving patients. If they want to stand and hold signs somewhere, that's a different issue. But impede someone's path or speak to them? I don't get why that should be a "right" in the first place. But, on the other hand, I don't know why a "buffer zone" should be needed. If this is harassment - and I would consider it harassment - then why can't the harassers be arrested regardless of a buffer zone designation? If the cops know that this is a problem around certain clinics - and they do know, because it is - why not station more cops there?
Does it just come down to funding? Not enough cops to hang around and arrest people for harassment? The buffer zone makes it easier to demarcate a violation and therefore have a clear case and arrest, therefore more likely for protesters to avoid violating it?
Just to be clear, I am not happy with the SC decision. I think clinic buffer zones ARE needed, unfortunately. It's just that I wish that no one had to be subject to harassment on the sidewalk anywhere for any reason, and I wish "buffer zones" just for clinics were not needed for that reason. That might put me at odds with folks who want to accost me with progressive petitions or requests to join progressive groups, but I'm sorry, those groups have other ways to reach me (and they have generally succeeded).
People should just back off and let other people go about their business, whether it be a medical procedure or catching the commuter train on time (and not having to wait a half hour until the next one).