Supreme Court Voids Abortion Clinic Free Zones And Upsets Safe Record

By Donald A. Collins | 26 June 2014
Church and State

(Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

Of course the sad irony of today’s obscene US Supreme Court ruling which voids the protest free zone for abortion clinics nationwide will be forgotten by most readers who will likely not recall the John Scalvi murders of two Boston abortion clinic receptionists on December 30, 1994!

I remember these events vividly because our sister in law, who called us with this news that day was President of PP of Massachusetts, which was in charge of one of those clinics.

That 6 of 9 US Supreme Court Justices are Catholic certainly makes the case that ideology trumps reason and equity regularly in the USA. Another chance if you are a Catholic ideologue to thank the Bush presidents for their decisive appointments to that court. However, perhaps equally troubling is the fact that this decision was unanimous, which means 3 non Catholic jurists on the court went along with this obviously wrong decision.

But after Citizens United, which allowed corporations to contribute unlimited sums to political elections what justice can American citizens expect? Not much.

Let’s listen to the reasoning of the opinion writer, Chief Justice John Roberts. The NY Times story reported:

Roberts noted that most of the problems reported by police and the clinics in Massachusetts occurred outside a single Planned Parenthood facility in Boston, and only on Saturdays when the largest crowds typically gather.

“For a problem shown to arise only once a week in one city at one clinic, creating 35-foot buffer zones at every clinic across the Commonwealth is hardly a narrowly tailored solution,” Roberts said. He wrote the majority opinion after asking no questions – exceedingly rare for him – at the argument in January.

Roberts noted that no other state has a similar law and that he is aware of only five cities that have created fixed buffer zones around abortion clinics: Burlington, Vermont; Pittsburgh; Portland, Maine, and San Francisco and Santa Barbara in California.

So since the overturned statute had worked well, let’s see if we can expose women seeking PP services (over 90% of which are NOT abortions) to the kind of danger John Salvi presented in 1994.

Of course it could have been worse as the Times article tells us:

The ruling also left intact a high court decision from 2000 that upheld a floating buffer zone in Colorado.

While the court was unanimous in the overall outcome, Roberts joined with the four liberal justices to strike down the buffer zone on narrower grounds than the other, more conservative justices wanted.

In a separate opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia criticized Roberts’ opinion as carrying forward “this court’s practice of giving abortion-rights advocates a pass when it comes to suppressing the free-speech rights of their opponents.”

Scalia said state and local governments around the country would continue to be able to “restrict antiabortion speech without fear of rigorous constitutional review.” Joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas, Scalia dissented from the Colorado decision and said Thursday he would have overturned it.

Maybe those 3 non Catholic jurists, 2 of them women, did have 2nd thoughts, but perhaps they have forgotten the dismal, dangerous killing of abortion providers for years and years.

It is always useful to point out that no pro choice person has ever been involved in killing Catholics who hold the anti choice position on abortion.

PPFA’s President was quite retrained in her comment to the Times:

“This decision shows a troubling level of disregard for American women, who should be able to make carefully considered, private medical decisions without running a gantlet of harassing and threatening protesters,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.”

Of course the overturned law could be altered in the future.

“The fight is just beginning again,” said state Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose office had argued before the justices.

Roberts suggested that Massachusetts could enact a state version of the federal law that prohibits people from blocking abortion clinic entrances.

The buffer-zone case began when Boston-area grandmother Eleanor McCullen and other abortion opponents sued over the limits on their activities at Planned Parenthood health centers in Boston, Springfield and Worcester. At the latter two sites, the protesters say they have little chance of reaching patients arriving by car because they must stay 35 feet not from the clinic entrances but from the driveway to those buildings’ parking lots. Patients enter the building through the parking lots, which are private property.

Planned Parenthood provides health exams for women, cancer screenings, tests for sexually transmitted diseases, birth control and abortions at its clinics.

The organization said that the buffer zone has significantly reduced the harassment of patients and clinic employees. Before the 35-foot zone went into effect in 2007, protesters had been able to stand next to the entrances and force patients to squeeze by, Planned Parenthood said.

Before 2007, a floating buffer zone kept protesters from approaching unwilling listeners any closer than 6 feet if they were within 18 feet of the clinic. The floating zone was modeled after a Colorado law that the Supreme Court has upheld. That decision was not called into question in Thursday’s ruling.

Meantime, let’s let a successful distance law be voided to see if deaths and harassment can occur.

And of course the scurrilous state of freedom which keeps American women in many cases from obtaining safe, convenient abortion services still exists, despite getting that Roe v Wade decision now over 40 years ago. Perhaps readers of this column might wish to purchase a film which depicts those dreadful pre Roe times called “Whose Choice?” which can be obtained from this web site. Go to

And of course obtaining safe abortion services overseas became even worse with enactment of the infamous Helms Amendment which restricted US help for women to obtain abortions outside the US even if provided by NGOs with private money.

The vicious Catholic anti choice position comes clear when one points out that over 40 million abortions occur yearly around the world and that many are not done safely. In short Catholic officials and those of some other extremist sects are happy to see women get dangerous abortion services or no abortion services so they can produce children they can’t care for. Doesn’t sound like Jesus would have bought into that kind of Christianity, which allegedly preaches love thy neighbor as thy self..

Hey, let’s ask that proverbial eternal question! What would Jesus do? Well, killing women for some opinion made up long after his death hardly qualifies as worthy of continuing. Yet we are 40 plus years after Roe v Wade and these same sects are sexually assaulting women as before. It’s their tradition!

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

Supreme Court Strikes Down Buffer Zone Law

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