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Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:40 AM

Supreme Court strikes down abortion clinic buffer zone

Source: USA Today

WASHINGTON -- Abortion remains an issue that divides the Supreme Court, but the justices had little disagreement Thursday in defending the free speech rights of abortion opponents.

The court ruled unanimously that Massachusetts went too far -- literally -- when it created 35-foot buffer zones around abortion clinics to keep demonstrators away from patients.

The decision united Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's four liberals. The other conservatives would have issued a more sweeping ban on laws that restrict abortion protests.

Although the court had upheld an eight-foot buffer zone in Colorado in 2000, the Massachusetts law passed in 2007 went 27 feet farther. During oral arguments in January, that had even the court's liberal, female justices wondering if the Bay State had gone too far. "That's a lot of space," Justice Elena Kagan said.

Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/06/26/supreme-court-abortion-clinic-buffer-zones/6698787/



I agree with this decision. Harassment and assault are already illegal and if any of these protesters do that, they can and will be arrested and charged. But a blanket restriction on the location of all protests reeks too much of the "free speech zones" I think we all despise.

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Reply Supreme Court strikes down abortion clinic buffer zone (Original post)
NYC Liberal Jun 2014 OP
Archae Jun 2014 #1
Psephos Jun 2014 #45
iandhr Jun 2014 #2
davidpdx Jun 2014 #3
daleanime Jun 2014 #4
BumRushDaShow Jun 2014 #5
NYC Liberal Jun 2014 #15
maddogesq Jun 2014 #20
Psephos Jun 2014 #46
GeorgeGist Jun 2014 #6
Swede Atlanta Jun 2014 #7
davidpdx Jun 2014 #10
NYC Liberal Jun 2014 #12
Swede Atlanta Jun 2014 #16
Orsino Jun 2014 #28
csziggy Jun 2014 #26
JDPriestly Jun 2014 #48
csziggy Jun 2014 #49
Demeter Jun 2014 #38
GeorgeGist Jun 2014 #8
former9thward Jun 2014 #11
onehandle Jun 2014 #9
davidpdx Jun 2014 #13
fasttense Jun 2014 #36
Orsino Jun 2014 #14
NYC Liberal Jun 2014 #17
Thor_MN Jun 2014 #19
NYC Liberal Jun 2014 #23
Thor_MN Jun 2014 #27
NYC Liberal Jun 2014 #34
Thor_MN Jun 2014 #37
NYC Liberal Jun 2014 #41
Orsino Jun 2014 #25
Thor_MN Jun 2014 #18
NYC Liberal Jun 2014 #22
Thor_MN Jun 2014 #30
NYC Liberal Jun 2014 #32
Thor_MN Jun 2014 #35
NYC Liberal Jun 2014 #42
Thor_MN Jun 2014 #43
fasttense Jun 2014 #39
invrabbit Jun 2014 #50
Thor_MN Jun 2014 #53
Robbins Jun 2014 #21
tomm2thumbs Jun 2014 #24
SunSeeker Jun 2014 #51
LannyDeVaney Jun 2014 #29
lostincalifornia Jun 2014 #31
SunSeeker Jun 2014 #52
lostincalifornia Jun 2014 #54
valerief Jun 2014 #33
ManiacJoe Jun 2014 #56
valerief Jun 2014 #57
onehandle Jun 2014 #40
JDPriestly Jun 2014 #44
Psephos Jun 2014 #47
Distant Quasar Jun 2014 #55

Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:46 AM

1. Except we've seen what those "pro-life" protesters do, and to heck with being arrested.

I still remember the videos of protesters crawling towards clinics, en masse.

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Response to Archae (Reply #1)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 02:46 PM

45. Yes, we must have only polite and civil protests.

That was sarcasm, btw.

Free speech is not to protect opinions we like. Those don't need protection.

If pro-lifers break the law, then cart 'em out in the police wagon. Breaking the law is not protected speech.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:47 AM

2. The one win I wanted Martha to have this year.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:49 AM

3. I disagree harassment has to be proven by the accuser, does it not?

Some scared woman going to get an abortion is not going to want to the police to do an investigation which means collecting her own information. The anti-choice protesters are vile and obnoxious, but still permitted to protest even with a buffer zone. They want to be able to put their hands on a touch the women (which I see as utterly creepy) and throw their religious pamphlets with lies and be able to hold their pictures of dead babies. It's not civilized in the least. It is one group taking advantage of another's unfortunate circumstance to try to manipulate them.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:51 AM

4. I have to disagree.....

try to get within 8-feet of anyone on the SC.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:51 AM

5. The anti-choice loons will have a field day

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Response to BumRushDaShow (Reply #5)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:00 AM

15. They can still have restrictions. Just not broad, blanket ones.

The buffer zones burden substantially more speech than nec­ essary to achieve the Commonwealth’s asserted interests. Subsection (e) of the Act already prohibits deliberate obstruction of clinic en­trances. Massachusetts could also enact legislation similar to the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act of 1994, 18 U. S. C. §248(a)(1), which imposes criminal and civil sanctions for obstruct­ing, intimidating, or interfering with persons obtaining or providing reproductive health services. Obstruction of clinic driveways can readily be addressed through existing local traffic ordinances. While the Commonwealth contends that individuals can inadvertently ob­struct access to clinics simply by gathering in large numbers, that problem could be addressed through a law requiring crowds blocking a clinic entrance to disperse for a limited period when ordered to do so by the police. In any event, crowding appears to be a problem only at the Boston clinic, and even there, only on Saturday mornings.


The restrictions just have to be targeted at specific problems, such as blocking entrances.

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Response to BumRushDaShow (Reply #5)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:06 AM

20. So now the pro choice side--including me--needs to mobilize.

If that means patient escorts, then fine and dandy. Let the thumpers throw the first punch and land in the pokey. Assault is assault, and police departments need to enforce that.

The civil rights movement is not over by any stretch.

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Response to maddogesq (Reply #20)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 02:47 PM

46. This is the correct response. n/t

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:51 AM

6. What's the buffer zone around Kagan when she speaks?

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:52 AM

7. I couldn't disagree with you more........

 

You have a woman who is coming to an appointment for medical care. That medical care could be a simple gynecological check-up or potentially to pursue an abortion.

Now the protesters can literally block her access or make it very difficult for her to get to or from the door of the clinic. Anyone who thinks this woman is going to call the police and allege assault is kidding themselves.

There is an abortion clinic not far from where I live. I regularly give the Papists who are protesting across the street the finger. Now I guess I need to go and buy several guns (I live in Georgia) and start parading around between the protestors and the clinic door.

That is what people who care about women's health care will need to do. We will need to use our 2nd Amendment rights to carry our guns and bazookas outside of abortion clinics and taunt the protestors.

This is an awful decision.

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Response to Swede Atlanta (Reply #7)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:56 AM

10. +1

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Response to Swede Atlanta (Reply #7)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:56 AM

12. Commentary from SCOTUS Blog:

The abortion protests ruling is relatively narrow. The Court makes clear that states can pass laws that specifically ensure access to clinics. It holds that states cannot more broadly prohibit speech on public streets and sidewalks. It also notably rejects the protesters' broadest arguments that such restrictions require strict constitutional scrutiny and are viewpoint based.
by tgoldstein

A state can go beyond narrow laws that block obstructions to clinics, and more broadly ban abortion protests, only if it builds a record showing that the narrower measures don't work.
by tgoldstein 10:41 AM

The upshot of today's ruling is that an abortion clinic buffer zone is presumptively unconstitutional. Instead, a state has to more narrowly target clinic obstructions. For example, the police can tell protesters to move aside to let a woman through to the clinic. But it cannot prohibit protesters from being on the sidewalks in the first instance. If in practice protesters still are obstructing the entrance, then it can consider a broader restriction.
by tgoldstein 10:43 AM

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Response to NYC Liberal (Reply #12)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:02 AM

16. I want to read the opinion myself.....

 

but I think I am going to start exercising my 2nd Amendment rights to challenge the protestors' 1st Amendment rights. I have never owned a gun but I think I'm going to get a least a handgun and an assault rifle this weekend.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Reply #12)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:16 AM

28. The ruling fails to acknowledge...

...that with so few clinics left, it's almost trivially easy for protesters to block access, making patients more dependent on police to get through.

I believe that this is on purpose.

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Response to Swede Atlanta (Reply #7)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:13 AM

26. Or have counter protestors similar to those who shut down Westboro

The Patriot Guard Riders and impromptu counter protestors have been very successful at shutting down Westboro Baptist Church protests.

Didn't one group have giant "angel wings" that they wore to line a funeral procession route so they could block the WBC nasty signs from the mourners? Why not take that idea and make giant supportive signs to line a corridor for the women trying to get services at the clinic? Shield them from being harassed, touched, photographed!

Guns would work too.

Edited to add: the counter protestors should be willing to take some of the physical harassment and ready to prefer charges against anyone who touches them. That way the clinic patients don't have to have their privacy violated but the aggressive protestors will get charged.

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Response to csziggy (Reply #26)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 03:04 PM

48. Yes. That is what needs to be done.

Then if the pro-papist protestors assault someone it won't be the woman seeking and abortion.

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Response to JDPriestly (Reply #48)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 03:11 PM

49. Exactly - provide our own buffers to take the harassment

So the women who need services don't have to take it. Of course, the protestors need to be ready to file charges, insist on prosecution, and have others to provide evidence to assist the prosecution - video comes to mind.

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Response to Swede Atlanta (Reply #7)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:54 AM

38. +2

 

After all, it's been tried before, and failed. 8 feet isn't enough.

I would think that clinics should have unmarked cars and underground garages....

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:53 AM

8. Says the court that won't allow cameras to broadcast and record their mischief.

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Response to GeorgeGist (Reply #8)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:56 AM

11. Everything at the SC is recorded.

Just no video. What is the big deal?

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:54 AM

9. And domestic terrorists rejoiced... nt

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Response to onehandle (Reply #9)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:57 AM

13. terrorists

You can say that again....

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Response to onehandle (Reply #9)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:34 AM

36. The Dancing Supremes are all pretending these anti-choice fanatics aren't a pack of murderers

 

Hundreds of people have been murdered thanks to these anti-choice protesters.

It's not as if they are peacefully and quiet. They throw and plant bombs and murder people. Keeping them 50 feet away would be a reasonable precaution.

So, when the next clinic gets bombed the Dancing Supreme will then allow less space for the terrorist to terrorize. But they are waiting for a few more murders before anyone is allowed to act.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 09:58 AM

14. The zone has nothing to do with free speech...

...which can easily be exercised thirty-five feet away. The zone is for personal security and a touch of privacy.

I don't see that the court showed anything wrong with the larger buffer. The decision seems remarkably arbitrary for a unanimous one. And we know who brought the case, and who will be delebrating newfound freedom to harrass.

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Response to Orsino (Reply #14)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:03 AM

17. Can you hand out literature from 35 feet away?

If you restrict that, it's a free-speech issue. And no, handing out literature is not in and of itself assault or harassment.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Reply #17)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:04 AM

19. One has no right to hand out literature.

 

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Response to Thor_MN (Reply #19)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:09 AM

23. That's absurd. Of course they do. It's one of the fundamental protections of the

First Amendment.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Reply #23)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:14 AM

27. Sorry bad choice of words.

 

One has the right to print anything they want.

But one has NO right to force someone to take it.

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Response to Thor_MN (Reply #27)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:31 AM

34. Yes but they have the right to offer it.

Harassment, intimidation is already illegal and SCOTUS says there can be restrictions but they have to be targeted at specific problems -- not just a blanket law that applies to EVERYONE.

So a law could allow police to order a crowd to disperse if they are blocking entrances but only when that actually happens.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Reply #34)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:35 AM

37. The court has already upheld an 8 foot restriction.

 

Unless I'm missing something, they struck down a 35 foot zone as being too far, but did not ban zones in general. So somewhere between 8 feet and 35 feet is the butter zone...

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Response to Thor_MN (Reply #37)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 11:09 AM

41. Yes I think there is a reasonableness aspect to it.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Reply #17)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:12 AM

25. You can easily hand out literature from 35 feet away.

As easily as from eight feet away, in fact.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:03 AM

18. Hard decision. One has the right to free speech, but no right to force others to listen.

 

At what distance does general protest free speech become targeted harassment?

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Response to Thor_MN (Reply #18)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:08 AM

22. Free speech doesn't just include talking. It includes handing out literature, petitions, etc.

This has always been protected. If you tell people they need to stay 35 feet back even before they've done anything wrong, you are infringing on that right.

The decision allows for restrictions. They just have to be specific and target problems as they occur. A law can allow police to order a crowd to move back if they are blocking entrances. A state can pass its own version of the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act which makes it a crime to intimidate or obstruct someone obtaining reproductive health services.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Reply #22)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:20 AM

30. Free Speech does not include forcing people to listen

 

Including literature. One can print whatever one desires, but one can not force anyone to read it. It infringes no person's rights to not take literature that is being handed out.

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Response to Thor_MN (Reply #30)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:24 AM

32. Of course no one has to take it.

But that does not mean you don't have the right to offer it. Just as the fact that no one is forced to listen when you protest doesn't mean you don't have the right to say what you want to say.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Reply #32)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:31 AM

35. Of course one has the right to offer it, but they have no right to force it upon a person

 

One has the right to stand or stroll on the sidewalk to hand things out. One has no right to target a specific person though. If our paths cross and you hold something out and I don't take it, no harm, no foul, no rights infringed.

If on the other hand, you follow me, attempt to impede my progress, touch me in any way, you are infringing my rights. One can not target another with their free speech.

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Response to Thor_MN (Reply #35)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 11:13 AM

42. We agree. And SCOTUS is saying that you have the right to stand outside

a clinic to hand out literature and a blanket "buffer zone" infringes on that. You can't tell everyone to stay 35 feet away even before they've done anything b

They allow states to enforce laws against harassment or intimidation (or make new ones). It's just that those laws have to be specific. The law the struck down was too broad.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Reply #42)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 11:45 AM

43. For the most part. But we apparently disagree on how far the right to distribute literature extends.

 

The conservatives like to think that they have the right to confront, touch, force their speech and literature upon a specific person. I believe they have no right to target an individual, therefore a buffer zone is no imposition on their First Amendment rights.

The distance of the buffer does become an issue. Personally, I think enough to prevent physical interaction is probably appropriate. Maybe double or half again the distance that prevents the casual spitter from hitting a target...

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Response to Thor_MN (Reply #30)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:55 AM

39. The problem is that anti-choice protesters murder and bomb people

 

If they were only screaming, grabbing and throwing things, then maybe it is about free speech. But they have proven themselves to be dangerous. It's about safety. But the Supremes are pretending otherwise. Now, we have to wait for more murders and bombings before anyone can protect the clinics with meaningful buffer zones.

I use to go on counter protests to support the women using the clinics. Let me tell you these are very rabid protesters. They shout at the top of their lungs, they lunge out and try to grab at the girls trying to get in, and they throw literature and signs at people walking by. Then when there is a disturbance, they try to sneak in the back to set bombs off or to attack people inside. Some of them support and encourage crazies to hunt down providers like animals.

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Response to Thor_MN (Reply #18)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 03:24 PM

50. Does this also apply to Westboro Church?

 

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Response to invrabbit (Reply #50)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 04:26 PM

53. Of course it does, part of what makes it difficult.

 

It is easy to declare the speech of all those one doesn't like should be moved to free speech zones miles away.

I would say the only only exception would be where the "speech" can be legally defined as hate speech, which another whole set of difficult.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:07 AM

21. I disagree with the court liberals or dems

This is protecting the pro-lifers rights.What about rights of women who chooce to get an abortion.Already It's getting hard for
Abortion clinics to operate.And what about rights of those doctors who will perform abortions and those who work at clinics.

This reads as big win for pro-lifers.The rest not so much.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:09 AM

24. but Roberts approved the same restriction on the Supreme Court.... hypocrite

TIME TO TAKE THEIR OWN 2013 RESTRICTION TO COURT...

"The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a new regulation barring most demonstrations on the plaza in front of the courthouse. The regulation did not significantly alter the court’s longstanding restrictions on protests on its plaza. It appeared, rather, to be a reaction to a decision issued Tuesday by a federal judge, which narrowed the applicability of a 1949 federal law barring “processions or assemblages” or the display of “a flag, banner or device designed or adapted to bring into public notice a party, organization or movement” in the Supreme Court building or on its grounds.

The law was challenged by Harold Hodge Jr., a student from Maryland who was arrested in 2011 on the Supreme Court plaza for wearing a large sign protesting police mistreatment of blacks and Hispanics. Lawyers representing the Supreme Court’s marshal told the judge hearing Mr. Hodge’s case that the law was needed to allow “unimpeded ingress and egress of visitors to the court” and to preserve “the appearance of the court as a body not swayed by external influence.” But Judge Beryl A. Howell of Federal District Court in Washington ruled for Mr. Hodge. “The absolute prohibition on expressive activity in the statute is unreasonable, substantially overbroad and irreconcilable with the First Amendment,” she wrote, adding that the law was “unconstitutional and void as applied to the Supreme Court plaza.”

The Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of the law in 1983, in United States v. Grace, saying it could not be applied to demonstrations on the public sidewalks around the court. On the grand plaza in front of the courthouse, however, Supreme Court police have been known to order visitors to remove buttons making political statements. The regulation issued Thursday, which the court said was “approved by the chief justice of the United States,” requires visitors to “maintain suitable order and decorum within the Supreme Court building and grounds.” It bars demonstrations, which it defines as “picketing, speech making, marching, holding vigils or religious services and all other like forms of conduct that involve the communication or expression of views or grievances, engaged in by one or more persons, the conduct of which is reasonably likely to draw a crowd or onlookers.”

*****

“Facing a fine or imprisonment because one man demonstrates in front of the Supreme Court,” he said, “is repugnant to the First Amendment.”


http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/13/supreme-court-issues-new-rule-barring-protests-on-plaza/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

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Response to tomm2thumbs (Reply #24)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 03:45 PM

51. Yup. Protection for me, not for thee.

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:19 AM

29. Stand Your Ground laws may work in our favor

 

nm

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:23 AM

31. Where are the rights of privacy of the individual going to see their doctor? That is how I see it.

You have strangers at a minimum verbally assaulting a person going to see their health care person. It really seems wrong.

It is the same garbage as that church group harassing funerals of gays. These are NOT public forums, but private ceremonies and private appointments.




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Response to lostincalifornia (Reply #31)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 03:57 PM

52. This is what happens when you have no ovulating women on the Supreme Court.

I highly doubt ANY of these Supreme Court justices ever tried to run a gauntlet of spitting, yelling forced - birth tealiban Christianistas in order to get medical care at a Planned Parenthood clinic--care that is either unavailable or unaffordable to many women anywhere else. In their isolated ivory tower world, they don't see what the big deal is in limiting buffer zones to no more than 8 feet. They have no clue that even 35 feet away, the forced - birth terrorists are a threatening, right-depriving, life-endangering presence.

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Response to SunSeeker (Reply #52)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 05:15 PM

54. Obviously I agree with your assessment

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:29 AM

33. And if you feel threatened, you can shoot the protesters. Remember to bring your gun

to your abortion!

New World Order.

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Response to valerief (Reply #33)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 07:14 PM

56. You forgot the sarcasm tag.

Taken literally, your suggestion would land folks in jail.

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Response to ManiacJoe (Reply #56)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 10:12 PM

57. Please. It's obviously sarcasm. Hence, the New World Order. nt

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 11:04 AM

40. And to agree with this decision is COMPLETE AND TOTAL BULLSHIT. NT

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 02:39 PM

44. I agree with the decision also, and think it should apply to Occupy Wall Street protestors

and other protestors. The cages and free speech zones should end with this decision.

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Response to JDPriestly (Reply #44)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 02:48 PM

47. Yes. Exactly. n/t

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Response to NYC Liberal (Original post)

Thu Jun 26, 2014, 05:22 PM

55. Yes, this is a reasonable decision to protect free speech

This particular law went too far. It doesn't mean states that want to protect women's access to clinics have no options - the majority made that clear. MA just needs to go back to the drawing board and find a solution that passes constitutional muster.

Like it or not, the implications of this case go beyond the abortion issue. Allow overly broad laws like this one, and you are opening the door to all manner of assaults on First Amendment freedoms. There is a reason why this was a 9-0 decision.

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