The Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments Wednesday from both sides of the issue determining whether a Massachusetts law pertaining to 35-foot buffer zones that circumscribe abortion clinics violates First Amendment rights. Whatever ruling is handed down, to the contentment or chagrin of one’s respective point of view, at least one positive aspect will be enjoyed by Bay Staters, if only momentarily: two candidates for governor are making a bipartisan effort to uphold the law.
The suit was brought on by 77-year old pro-life activist Eleanor McCullen who, as noted by the Associated Press, “shows up most Tuesdays and Wednesdays outside the Boston facility” located on Commonwealth Ave. in the Allston neighborhood contending that a distance limit around the Planned Parenthood is against the constitutional right to freedom of speech.
Spearheading the case for the defense of the law, though, is Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate and current Attorney General Martha Coakley whose colleague, Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Grace Miller, delivered remarks on behalf of the defense.
“I am proud that Massachusetts passed the buffer zone law to help people access reproductive health care free from harassment,” said Coakley in a statement.
I also am proud of our office’s defense of this important law, and want to thank our outstanding team who worked on this case, with particular thanks to Assistant Attorneys General Jennifer Miller and Sookyoung Shin for their advocacy in this morning’s arguments. Today, I thought the justices asked insightful questions about the constitutional balance that this law must, and we believe does, strike. I am hopeful that they will conclude that the buffer zone statute appropriately protects speech, health care access, and public safety, and should remain law.”
And while, in the most general sense, it’s easy for citizens to peg Republicans as pro-life and anti-choice, that’s not the current case in Massachusetts, at least not for Coakley’s stiffest competition, Charlie Baker. The former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, who’s out-earned Coakley in campaign fundraising in 2013 hasn’t mentioned much on the subject, but BostInno reached out directly to his campaign and received a response atypical of usual right-wing views.
“Charlie hopes the current law is upheld,” a Baker spokesperson told BostInno. Though vague in nature, the statement could be taken in a manner that Baker is, in fact, pro choice, or that he’s simply a proponent of laws enacted at the state level. Either way, his show of support for the cause, however broad in his choice of words, a positive direction for bipartisan collaboration in customarily blue Massachusetts.
Not all candidates, though, are as optimistic.
“Abortion enthusiasts like Martha Coakley are silencing the only advocates for life these babies have left on their way to the slaughter-house,” Scott Lively, a devout preacher by trade and noted anti-LGBTQ activist running as an Independent with Republican sentiments, told BostInno. “She is complicit in the murders of these helpless children and unfit for public office. I pray for her to repent from the evil of abortion advocacy and to use the power of her office to oppose and not facilitate the continuing abortion holocaust in this state.”
The law, as interestingly noted by the Associated Press, could have substantial implications for protests directly in the face of the court should it be struck down, in that it “bars protests on the plaza outside its own building, but allows them on the public sidewalks.”
At this point in time, it’s difficult to decipher which way the court is leaning as its makeup has shifted since the law was upheld in a 2000 ruling, during a similar case in Colorado.
[Image via NPR]