The case originated with a courageous seventy seven year old Massachusetts woman named Eleanor McCullen. She is a mother and grandmother who goes to abortion clinics and peacefully seeks to help the mothers and the fathers understand the truth concerning what happens in every abortion. She also gives out knitted stocking caps filled with educational information on alternatives to abortion. She and her colleagues believe that the First Amendment is supposed to protect them. They are completely peaceful, do not block access, and offer support, educational information and assistance. This is a public sidewalk.
Eleanor McCullen, a mother and grandmother who goes to abortion clinics and peacefully seeks to help the mothers and the fathers understand the truth concerning what happens in every abortion. She also gives out knitted stocking caps filled with educational information on alternatives to abortion.
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
1/17/2014 (2 years ago)
Published in U.S.
Keywords: Eleanor McCullen, buffer zones, McCullen v. Coakley, Pro-Life, Pro-Choice, abortion, abortion clinics, Free Speech, Supreme Court, First Amendment, Jay Sekulow, ACLJ, Colorado, Hill v. Colorado, Deacon Keith Fournier, Keith Fournier
WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - On Wednesday, January 15, 2014, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of McCullen v. Coakley. The case originated in my home State of Massachusetts. It concerns a matter which I spent years of my legal career fighting, the growing practice of suppressing speech which is unpopular.
I was the first Executive Director of the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice) during the 1990's. I moved to Virginia at the invitation of Pat Robertson to build that public interest law firm. During that time Jay Sekulow also joined the ACLJ as Chief Counsel.
I had the privilege of working with Jay as he effectively defended religious liberty and stood up for the Free Speech rights of those who give a voice to children in the womb, as well as help their mothers and fathers understand the Right to Life and what occurs in every procured abortion.
Before Jay joined the ACLJ, I was counsel at the Federal District Court level in the case of Schenck v Pro-Choice Network of Western New York. It involved my friend, Pro-Life hero, now Catholic priest, Fr Paul Schenck and his twin brother Rob, also a pro-Life champion.
When Jay so passionately argued that case at the Supreme Court, I had the privilege of serving as Co-Counsel. His argument was brilliant, the cause was just and the result made history. There the US Supreme Court struck down floating buffer or bubble zones as unconstitutional.
After ordination to the office of Deacon in the Catholic Church, I left the ACLJ for further theological study and other policy efforts. I had sincerely hoped we had helped to burst the bubble zones which threatened unpopular speech and constituted overt viewpoint discrimination. I was wrong.
In the year 2000, in a case called Hill v. Colorado, the Supreme Court upheld a one hundred foot bubble or buffer zone which has been imposed around abortion facilities under Colorado law. A Pro-Life sidewalk counselor cannot go within eight feet of anyone entering an abortion facility clinic to counsel, dialogue, educate or protest without consent in Colorado.
It is a bad law - and it gave rise to an even worse Supreme Court opinion. So much for the protection of the Free Speech clause found in the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution, at least for those who speak out for the Right to Life of children in the womb and try to help their mothers and fathers choose to have them.
No matter what the Supreme Court said in its specious and poorly written opinion; the result was to sanction viewpoint discrimination. Only Pro-Life speech is precluded. That is wrong and must be rectified. McCullen v. Coakley presents just such an opportunity.
The case originated with a courageous seventy seven year old Massachusetts woman named Eleanor McCullen. She is a mother and grandmother who goes to abortion clinics and peacefully seeks to help the mothers and the fathers understand the truth concerning what happens in every abortion. She also gives out knitted stocking caps filled with educational information on alternatives to abortion.
She and her colleagues believe that the First Amendment is supposed to protect them. They are completely peaceful, do not block access, and offer support, educational information and assistance. They go to where abortions happen in order to be near those who they believe have a right to receive this information. They engage in what should be a protected activity on a PUBLIC SIDEWALK.
However, Eleanor and her colleagues were precluded from exercising their constitutional Right to Free Speech and assembly by a Massachusetts Law which makes it a crime to "enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk" within 35 feet of an entrance, exit, or driveway of "a reproductive health care facility."
In other words, this law only applies to abortion facilities. Like the horrid legislation in Colorado - which was not only upheld by but made worse in its application - by the bad opinion of the Supreme Court in the Hill case, it presumes that the women and men entering these facilities do not want to hear what is being said. It singles out one viewpoint for censorship. It restricts the active censorship it imposes to abortion facilities. It is repugnant to the Constitution.
The effect is content based restriction of speech on a public sidewalk in front of abortion facilities. It is indefensible under any proper constitutional analysis. It should be eminently clear, to any fair-minded observer. This is all an example of what Jay Sekulow used to call the abortion distortion years ago when he argued the Schenck case. It still is an abortion distortion and it is an egregious violation of the First Amendment.
The people being excluded from speaking on that public sidewalk are only the Pro-Life people. The State and the people who promote abortion are stifling their speech and impeding their free assembly. The people from the abortion facility are exempted from the law by its specific language. They can say anything they want. Eleanor McCullen may soon make history by establishing once again the protections which were wrongfully removed from Pro-Life speakers in the Hill opinion.
Trying to predict the outcome of a Supreme Court case is often a futile gesture. However, given the reaction of the Justices, the questions asked and the reporting coming from trustworthy and reliable sources, it appears that the Court will once again burst the bubble and strike down this blatantly unconstitutional restriction of Free Speech. Buffer Zones for Pro-Life Speech threaten the foundation of Freedom.
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