The Supreme Court unanimously decided Thursday that Massachusetts violated the First Amendment by excluding speech from a 35-foot “buffer zone” around abortion clinic driveways and entrances. McCullen v. Coakley is a victory for pro-life speech rights, although just how broad a victory is uncertain. The majority opinion by Chief Justice Roberts ruled for the sidewalk-counselor plaintiffs but rejected their argument that the Massachusetts law in question discriminates against pro-life speech. Before I discuss the implications of those holdings, let me highlight a different, significant way in which McCullen may advance the pro-life cause.
1. The counselors’ “outstretched hand.” The state law was challenged by Eleanor McCullen and other pro-life counselors who sought to engage women entering abortion clinics in quiet, personal conversation and offer them information and help concerning financial support, adoption, and other alternatives to abortion. Roberts’s opinion (joined by Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor) held that the law “burden[s] substantially more speech than necessary” to accomplish the state’s asserted goals of protecting public safety and preventing harassment or obstruction of women entering clinics. It noted that the state had plenty of more narrowly tailored means to prevent these harms; it also rejected the state’s argument that the plaintiffs could exercise speech from outside the buffer zone.
Democrats for Life of America (DFLA) is filing briefs in important legal proceedings involving the protection of pro-life principles. As a DFLA board member and lawyer/scholar involved with those briefs, let me tell you what we’re accomplishing with these filings.
Millennial: “Once again, it was very encouraging to see that the audience at the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life was engaged and interested in the case that we were trying to make. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, particularly on the point that being pro-life needs to mean more than simply supporting restrictions on access to abortion. And most seemed to agree that a strong pro-life bloc within the Democratic Party coupled with a strong bipartisan effort in the pro-life movement is the only way to effectively save the lives of the unborn and improve the lives of women and their families.”
Kristen Day: “Unless there is a united front to put pregnant women first, Roe will continue to provide a wedge issue, an excuse to raise money, or a reason to March on Washington. Women deserve better. Children deserve better. America deserves common-sense solutions that empower women to choose life.”
My article in Millennial: “The biggest reason why the pro-life movement needs progressive allies is because the Republican strategy, which relies on the appointment of enough conservative Supreme Court justices to overturn Roe v. Wade and return the issue of abortion to the states, would neither result in the legal protection of unborn life nationwide nor address the underlying causes of abortion. Only a comprehensive approach that guarantees constitutional protection for unborn lives and addresses the economic and social needs of pregnant women and children, born and unborn, can be fully successful.”
CBN: “Pro-life Democrats. No, that’s not a mistake. In fact, it’s a group that’s some 21 million strong. Still, pro-life Democrats are the first to admit they’re not exactly the life of the Democrat Party.”
America: Democrat and Pro-Life?
CNS: DNC forum explores: Can you be a Democrat and be pro-life?
Jamie Dean: Social Convention
LA Times: Democratic ‘pro-life’ group: It is GOP that threatens the unborn
NY Times: Anti-Abortion, Pro-Democrat
Debra J. Saunders: Where are pro-life women?
Emma Teitel: Can you be pro-life in a pro-choice party? Delegates say yes
Time: Anti-Abortion Democrats Argue for More Inclusion