SCOTUS ruling against MA’s abortion clinic buffer zones hinders women’s access to reproductive choice

An anti-choice protester harasses a woman and her clinic escorts as she crosses the yellow line into the clinic buffer zone. Photo credit: ThinkProgress
An anti-choice protester harasses a woman and her clinic escorts as she crosses the yellow line into the clinic buffer zone. Photo credit: ThinkProgress

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously today that Massachusetts’ abortion clinic buffer zone ruling is unconstitutional. In 2007, the state amended the state-wide Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act to make it illegal to congregate within 35 feet of the entrance of an abortion clinic, including on public sideways and roadways.

The amendment was implemented to directly address an oft-used tactic by the anti-choice Right: the harassing and abusive screeching and finger-wagging that seeks to shame women entering clinics for seeking an abortion (whether they are actually doing so or not).

The SCOTUS decision paints a euphemistic picture of this strategy, labeling it the righteous exercise of free speech. They call it “sidewalk counseling” and refer to two tactics they’ve now ruled as protected by the First Amendment: the right to close person-to-person contact between protester and patient, and the right to distribute literature.

This is a disingenuously charitable description of what these protesters actually do.

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SCOTUS undermines minority rights in upholding Michigan anti-affirmative action ban

Is anyone else surprised that the two voting women justices  (Justice Kagan recused herself because she had worked on the case) decided in favour of protecting the rights of the minority?
Is anyone else surprised that the two voting women justices (Justice Kagan recused herself because she had worked on the case) decided in favour of protecting the rights of the minority?

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court handed down a long-awaited decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action which upheld a voter-decided ban on race-conscious affirmative action in the state of Michigan. Followers of my blog know that I am passionate about the defense of affirmative action in this country, and have advocated strongly against Prop 107 in Arizona, and more recentily in favour of California’s proposed SCA5, a bill that would have repealed Prop 209 for California’s public university system.

Anti-affirmative action advocates are celebrating the Schuette decision as the final nail in the coffin of affirmative action. Anchors on Fox News are even hailing the Schuette decision as a victory for civil rights, the proverbial “Promised Land” of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

But, let me be clear: this is a spurious interpretation of Schuette, one that seems designed more to energize the anti-affirmative action base than to provide a clear and accurate summary of the Schuette decision.

Furthermore, while Schuette is certainly a setback for the affirmative action fight, the decision has far more general implications for minority rights in this country that should not be swept under the rug. In fact, the Schuette decision should be disconcerting not just to defenders of affirmative action, but to all minority groups (particularly people of colour): Schuette ultimately had only a minimal impact on the legal questions raised in the affirmative action fight, but its damaging impact on minority rights may be vast and still virtually unknown.

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