The results of the recent Supreme Court case, McCullen v. Coakley, in which the Court unanimously ruled that a buffer zone law in Massachusetts around abortion clinics violated the First Amendment, are bearing fruit. Eleanor McCullen, the main plaintiff in the case, has already returned to her post sidewalk counseling women outside the Allston Planend Parenthood clinic.
She has been doing this on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the past 14 years. As a local outlet, Taunton Daily Gazette, mentioned, “[n]othing had changed, except this morning, for the first time since 2007, she was standing on the inside of a wide circular line painted on the sidewalk that was designed to keep her out.”
In the Opinion of the Court, the testimony of McCullen and other pro-life sidewalk counselors is taken into consideration. As Chief Justice Roberts points out:
There burdens on petitioners’ speech have clearly taken their toll. Although McCullen claimed that she had persuaded about 80 women not to terminate their pregnancies since the 2007 amendment, App. to Pet. for Cert. 42a, she also says that she reaches “far fewer people” than she did before the amendment, App. 137.
Reporting from Taunton Daily Gazette includes statements from McCullen which re-emphasizes this rather unfortunate point addressed in the Opinion of the Court. As Chief Justice Roberts discussed:
For example, in uncontradicted testimony, McCullen explained that she often cannot distinguish patients from passerby outside the Boston clinic in time to initiate a conversation before they enter the buffer zone. App. 135. And even when she does manage to begin a discussion outside the zone, she must stop abruptly at its painted borders, which she believes causes her to appear “untrustworthy” or “suspicious.” Id., at 135, 152. Given these limitations, McCullen is often reduced to raising her voice from outside the zone–a mode of communication sharply at odds with the compassionate message she wishes to convey. Id., at 133, 152-153.
But the happy ending from the ruling is that this compassionate grandmother looking to help women who find themselves in a desperate enough situation where they are considering an abortion, says:
As she watched people come and go from the Allston center Wednesday morning, McCullen said, “I’m happy because I no longer have to shout to get their attention. Before, I had to shout and it did feel harsh – that was the only way to reach them.”
The conclusion of the piece from Taunton remarks on Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, as well as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Martha Coakley, the Attorney General of the Commonwealth who yes is that Martha Coakley and is now a gubernatorial candidate have all discussed a plan for action to combat the Supreme Court’s ruling. In fact, a day later from this article, Taunton Daily Gazette published another piece, “Ruling on abortion clinic buffer prompts new Massachusetts bill.”
Groups which promote abortion, such as Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America (and their state affiliates), the National Organization for Women and certain media outlets may make this case out to be about the protection of women from apparently violent protesters. One can look to their Facebook pages to see just how falsely they regard peaceful pro-life sidewalk counselors.
To sum that view up though, as already done in a Live Action News post analyzing the decision:
If the abortion movement is to be believed, those who stand outside abortion clinics have the aim to harass, intimidate and even terrorize the women who are clients of such businesses. But, we cannot restrict the First Amendment rights of people based on the fear of what they may do or are even just likely to do. They have to actually commit a criminal act.
Fortunately though our nation’s high court understood what this case was truly about, protecting the free speech rights of all Americans. Eleanor McCullen continues to sidewalk counsel and “…to let women know they have a friend.” Hopefully, thanks in part to the Supreme Court ruling, she will be met with the success she once had in saving women and their children from the pain of abortion.