The Supreme Court’s Buffer Zone
Last week the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot buffer zone around women’s health clinics at which abortions were performed. The law had mandated that protesters stay outside of that zone so as to allow unfettered access to clinics for both clients and staff, and damped down, at least a little bit, the vitriolic harassment that so many women’s reproductive health clinics are forced to endure. The Court invalidated the law on 1st Amendment grounds, holding that the mandated buffer zone impermissibly interfered with protesters’ free speech rights. Curious thing, though. The U.S. Supreme Court building itself has a 250-foot buffer zone within which protesters are not allowed to congregate. This little fact does not seem to bother the hypocrites on the Court one whit. But I ask you this: when was the last time a Supreme Court judge was murdered? When was the last assassination attempt made on a Supreme Court judge? When was the last time the Supreme Court building was fire-bombed? Doctors, support staff, and patients of women’s reproductive health clinics around the country have been forced to endure all of this for decades, not to mention the every-day vitriolic harassment targeted at people who are just doing their (quite legal) jobs, and those who simply want to obtain (quite legal) health care.
Since the 1st Amendment specifically prohibits any law that interferes with the right to petition for a government redress of grievances, isn’t it more important that protesters be given close access to a building where important government decisions are made, than to a clinic where private, personal medical activities take place? Especially when such clinics have so frequently been the target of terroristic violence, while the Supreme Court building, which is heavily guarded by armed Federal Marshalls 24/7, has not? I say, let’s remove the Supreme Court’s buffer zone altogether, and allow the justices to be screamed at unrelentingly, right in their faces, as they enter and leave the building. Then let’s see how they feel about buffer zones outside of reproductive health clinics.