The discussion about “buffer zones” outside abortion clinics has nothing to do about the controversy surrounding the planned death of a fetus. It has everything to do with your First Amendment rights.
That’s something a federal court judge in Louisville and council members in Toledo ought to really think about before proceeding.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge David J. Hale issued a temporary restraining order to keep protesters away from a “buffer zone” outside Kentucky’s only abortion clinic, according to the Associated Press. A Texas-based group called Operation Save America planned to come to Louisville for week-long vigils starting this weekend, protesting outside the abortion clinic. The buffer zone was directly outside the entrance to EMW Women’s Surgical Center, between clinic property and the curbside patient drop-off zone.
Earlier this month, Toledo’s council began considering a new law that would make it a misdemeanor to slow access to health care facilities, including the city’s only abortion clinic, Capital Care Network. That also happens to be the abortion clinic nearest to Lima, since the location here closed in January 2013. The proposed law sets up a 20-foot buffer zone where you can’t physically impede someone or “attempt to threaten to do the same,” according to the Toledo Blade.
Wherever you fall in your opinion on abortion, you should see the dangers in the government telling you what you can and can’t do in public when you’re not violating another person’s rights.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is pretty clear about not making laws “abridging the freedom of speech.” It also is pretty clear about the “right of the people peaceably to assemble.”
As long as the “sidewalk counselors,” as the Citizens for Community Values likes to call the protesters, are standing on public property and not physically injuring people using the services of these facilities, the government should frankly stay out of it.
This isn’t about undoing abortion laws, which are legally permitted in the United States. It’s about not restricting these protesters’ God-given and Constitutionally protected right to try to sway the clients of these providers. If they can compel someone not to have an abortion, that’s a life saved and a job well done for them.
If they overstep their bounds and step onto private property, there are already laws in place for removing an unwanted visitor.
As a society, we can’t afford to let the government decide which types of free speech are permitted and which aren’t. We can’t cede our right to peaceably assemble to an overreaching council and a judge trying to rewrite the Constitution, all in the name of political correctness.
Even if you don’t agree with their protests, you should protect their right to protest. Once you take away their right to be there, you’re giving the government permission to take away your right to protest whatever injustices you see in the world.
The Toledo council and the federal judge must back away from these wrong-headed, unconstitutional moves.