According to the Twitter feed of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (@ppnne), the Portland City Council voted unanimously this evening to impose what PP calls a “patient safety zone” outside abortion facilities.
Also known as buffer zones, such ordinances typically impose a perimeter around abortion facilities to keep peaceful pro-life prayer witnesses at a distance.
The sketchy report provided by the tweets indicates that abortion advocates were well-represented at the meeting, which included public testimony. The Council meeting was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.; testimony reportedly ended shortly after 10; the Council vote was concluded by 10:25.
The Councilors added an “emergency” provision that makes the ordinance effective immediately.
The United States Supreme Court will rule within the next few months on the constitutionality of Massachusetts’s buffer zone law. The Concord, New Hampshire city council recently took a wait-and-see attitude to a petition for a zone around “reproductive health facilities” in that city.
The U.S. Supreme Court is back in session, and among the cases it will decide by next summer is one from Massachusetts challenging that state’s 35-foot no-protest zone around abortion facilities [McCullen v. Coakley]. The plaintiffs are seven pro-lifers who regularly do sidewalk counseling outside abortion facilities in Boston, Worcester, and Springfield.
The pending case was a factor in the decision by the Concord, NH City Council not to follow up on a petition to impose a 35-foot zone around the Feminist Health Center. When that petition was in the news, I went to Concord to measure what a 35-foot zone would look like there (see Thirty-Five Feet in Theory and Practice). I still wonder if the Concord Chamber of Commerce realizes that a 35-foot “buffer” would put pro-lifers on its doorstep instead of the FHC’s. If the Supreme Court upholds the Massachusetts law, you can expect to see a buffer zone imposed by the city, if not by the state.
The challenged law applies to “reproductive health facilities” excluding hospitals. Violators are subject to fines and jail time, becoming more severe with repeat offenses. Mark L. Rienzi, attorney for the plaintiffs, told Boston.com, “The same rules have to apply to all speakers. The government cannot put peaceful pro-life speakers in jail, but give Planned Parenthood free rein on the same sidewalk.” It seems that employees of the abortion providers, who are not subject to the law, have been known to stand in front of the facilities and interact with clients in a manner to drown out the pro-lifers 35 feet away.
I saw a tweet the other day from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, calling on supporters to show up in Portland to promote a “patient safety zone” there. That’s yet another euphemism for “First-Amendment-free zone.”
The Court last addressed no-protest zones in 2000 in the Hill v. Colorado case, when a 6-3 vote upheld a Colorado law establishing an 8-foot buffer. Five of those Justices are still on the Court, two of whom were in the Hill majority.
Late-term abortion case on appeal
From Americans United for Life comes this news that Arizona officials are appealing a lower court decision striking down the state’s law limiting abortions after the fifth month of pregnancy. According to AUL, “Arizona’s defense relies directly on the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld the federal partial birth abortion ban act. In that case, the Supreme Court expressed concern with late-term abortions and their impact on the unborn child and women’s health.”
I hope you had a good Independence Day celebration, and that you’re lucky enough to get a good long weekend to go along with it.
The latest on a “buffer” zone in Concord: The petition to block First Amendment rights within 35 feet of the Feminist Health Center is on hold, as the Concord City Council has referred it to the city police and legal departments. Same goes for the counter-petition filed by pro-lifers, led by Ava Voissem. The matter will not be taken up at next Monday’s Council meeting. See the meeting agenda here, page 6, information item #8. The next Council meeting will be on August 12, and keep an eye on this blog and the Leaven for the Loaf Facebook page and Twitter feeds for updates.
What the heck’s with Texas? Leaven has offered a few posts (originals here and here, plus a re-post from a fellow blogger) about the attempts in Texas to pass a bill to stop post-20-week abortions and to impose ambulatory-surgical-care standards on abortion facilities. The legislature is now back in session to consider the bill yet again, after a filibuster and a mob scene prevented a timely vote a couple of weeks ago. An actual vote is not expected before Monday, but there has been plenty of extracurricular activity. Pro-lifers and abortion advocates alike have come to Austin to make sure legislators hear their respective messages. I pay attention to this because I think what’s happening in Texas will provide a template for abortion advocates’ future attempts to stop post-20-week bills elsewhere, including Concord. No, I have no inside information about potential disruption at the State House. I firmly believe that if the bill in Texas fails, though, abortion advocates will take whatever “worked” there to other states.
I’d hate to see messaging like this take hold:
Ethan Gehrke (@EthanGehrke) took this photograph, tweeted it, and watched it go viral.
Children at demonstrations are nothing new, at least not to me – but seriously? Have one’s child carry a sign saying “If I wanted the government in my womb I’d f*** a senator”? This is a post-Gosnell bill. Apparently, the mom in question has issues with that. One reporter, Elspeth Reeve of the Atlantic, speculated that the photo was doctored by pro-lifers. It wasn’t. (You might enjoy this post by the redoubtable Kevin Williamson, who knows a thing or two about journalism, calling Ms. Reeve to task.)
For truly over-the-top political theater, nothing this week beat the “Hail, Satan!” chants in Austin made by some of the opponents of the Texas bill. No fooling. No word on whether any legislators found this persuasive.
November 2014 is only 16 months away, but nets are already being cast all over New Hampshire by potential candidates for office who are looking for money and endorsements. These are Republicans, for the most part, since the Dems seem happy with their incumbent governor & Congresswomen & senior Senator. Just as a teaser, three potential candidates have voting records or public statements on the life issues.
Jim Rubens of Etna is testing the waters – “exploring” is his term – to take on Jeanne Shaheen for U.S. Senate. In this WMUR interview, he said he’d like to see a “temporary truce” on social issues. His chief claim to fame is guiding the Granite State Coalition Against Expanded Gambling (full disclosure: I’m a member), which is one reason New Hampshire remains casino-free.
Former state senator Gary Lambert is the subject of a Facebook campaign to draft him for the Second Congressional District race vs. incumbent Annie Kuster. He voted “inexpedient to legislate” on HB 1659, an informed consent bill, last year. He’s a very astute man to have earned a senate seat in Nashua usually occupied by a Democrat. He chose not to run for re-election last year.
State rep and former Speaker of the House Bill O’Brien is definitely in the Second Congressional District race. He has a sterling pro-life voting record. His take-no-prisoners style is the stuff of legend and will no doubt make for a lively primary.
Each of these men has a far more to his record than I can convey in a sentence or two, but as I said, this is a teaser. I’m not a truce-on-social-issues type, but I’m happy to hear from any candidate. Let the people know what they can expect when something like a Gosnell-prevention bill comes up.
I received this information today from an attorney who has been following the matter: the petition to keep protesters & prayer witnesses at least 35 feet away from the Feminist Health Center in Concord was NOT put on the agenda for the July 8 Concord city council meeting.