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Friday, January 17, 2014

Don't Be a Dick, Supreme Court

Posted by Barbara Holm on Fri, Jan 17, 2014 at 12:59 PM

In Massachusetts, protesters must remain 35 feet from an abortion facility and are not allowed to obstruct anyone from entering. On Wednesday, a group of anti-abortion protesters challenged this law, and not to a game of badminton. The law is being challenged in the US Supreme Court, so if struck down, it will affect the safety of abortion clinics all over the country.

The protesters maintain that the law infringes upon our freedom of speech. And I'm all for speech to be totally free, like a box of old magazines in Southeast Portland. However, I don't think freedom of speech includes anything that might hurt someone.

At my day job I talk to medical patients, and I've spoken with girls younger than me going through serious surgeries that are stigmatized. I hate that they're bombarded with intimidation on their way to these procedures. Life is confusing and terrifying enough with Justin Bieber out there.

The exact wording of the First Amendment in the constitution is: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I'm gonna hang my hair scrunchy on the word "peaceably" and say that abortion protesters less than 35 feet (only 6 and a half Barbaras) away from a clinic are not exactly breaking off a piece of that peace peaceably. Traumatizing a young woman is not what Ghandi would do. Can't they exercise their freedom of speech just as easily without obstructing patients and professionals from entering the clinic? Maybe they need a new freedom of speech exercise video. And a one and a two: I'm allowed to have these opinions but so are you!

Hate speech is NOT protected under the First Amendment. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says "...hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law." Mentally intimidating someone is hostility and discrimination. Obstructing patients or doctors from entering a medical clinic counts as violence. And while they don't by definition constitute hate speech, the Venn diagram of anti abortion protesters and hate-speech mongers is not separated by a fully operational force field.

Our rights to safe medical procedures hang by a daisy stem. If you're a young woman who has experienced any of this intimidation and aggression, I'm so sorry you had to go through that. If you're a medical professional who works in this field, I'm grateful for you. Thanks for being strong and inspirational! Tune in next week to find out whether I ever figure out what a hashtag is.

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