Don’t Tread on Grandma: The Supreme Court Reframes the Abortion-Free Speech Debate in ‘McCullen’

Read more of our coverage on the McCullen v. Coakley case here.

You’ve got to hand it to the anti-choice movement. When they picked Eleanor McCullen to be the face of their First Amendment attack on abortion clinic access, they knew exactly what they were doing. The trope of anti-choice protesters as “plump grandmas” helped the media and the U.S. Supreme Court not just gloss over the very real threats of violence that abortion providers and patients face, but also erase providers and patients from the Supreme Court’s analysis almost entirely.

Since 1977, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) has documented eight murders, 17 attempted murders, 42 bombings, 181 arson cases, 399 invasions, 100 acid attacks, and 663 bioterrorism threats targeting abortion providers and their facilities. A September 2013 survey of U.S. NAF members found that nearly 90 percent of providers had a patient entering their facility express concerns about their personal safety. At the Daily Beast, Sally Kohn reminds us that within an hour of the 1994 murders of abortion clinic workers in Massachusetts, which led to the eventual creation of clinic buffer zones, a woman called one of the clinics attacked and told the staff person who answered, “You got what you deserved.” Meanwhile, Donald Spitz, the director of Pro-Life Virginia, thanked John C. Salvi publicly for his murders as throngs of supporters cheered along enthusiastically outside the prison holding Salvi.

On Thursday, a unanimous Supreme Court looked past all that history—because, as Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the majority pointed out, the violent face of the anti-choice movement was not before the Court in McCullen. The “gentle” grandmas were.

“Some of the individuals who stand outside Massachusetts abortion clinics are fairly described as protestors, who express their moral or religious opposition to abortion through signs and chants or, in some cases, more aggressive methods such as face-to-face confrontation,” Roberts wrote. “Petitioners take a different tack.”

He continues:

They attempt to engage women approaching the clinics in what they call “sidewalk counseling,” which involves offering information about alternatives to abortion and help pursuing those options. Petitioner Eleanor McCullen, for instance, will typically initiate a conversation this way: “Good morning, may I give you my literature? Is there anything I can do for you? I’m available if you have any questions.” If the woman seems receptive, McCullen will provide additional information. McCullen and the other petitioners consider it essential to maintain a caring demeanor, a calm tone of voice, and direct eye contact during these exchanges. Such interactions, petitioners believe, are a much more effective means of dissuading women from having abortions than confrontational methods such as shouting or brandishing signs, which in petitioners’ view tend only to antagonize their intended audience. In unrefuted testimony, petitioners say they have collectively persuaded hundreds of women to forgo abortions.

But to suggest that the Massachusetts buffer zone fight, or any buffer zone fight for that matter, is about people like McCullen who maintain a “caring demeanor” as they approach patients and employees requires some considerable intellectual gymnastics and selective storytelling. Chief Justice Roberts is up for the task. “Petitioners are not protestors. They seek not merely to express their opposition to abortion, but to inform women of various alternatives and to provide help in pursuing them,” Roberts writes. “Petitioners believe that they can accomplish this objective only through personal, caring, consensual conversations. And for good reason: It is easier to ignore a strained voice or a waving hand than a direct greeting or an outstretched arm.”

Right. Just as Lizz Winstead describes here. Or Robin Marty chronicles here. Or Erin Matson here. Or Katie Klabusich here.

You get the idea.

The thing is, as sympathetic a plaintiff as McCullen may be to some, judicial decisions are supposed to be grounded in legal reasoning, not sympathetic narratives. And the legal reasoning put forth by the chief justice in striking the Massachusetts buffer zone law is thin.

The last time the Supreme Court waded into the waters of abortion protesters, free speech, and government regulation was in the 2000 case Hill v. Colorado. There, the Court upheld a 1993 Colorado law that restricted demonstrations around health-care facilities by providing that protesters cannot come within 100 feet of any facility entrance generally while also prohibiting them from approaching within eight feet of a patient (without their consent) for the purpose of demonstrating at them—activities that are more or less what the plaintiffs in McCullen characterized as “sidewalk counseling.”

Restrictions on speech and speech activities like protesting are constitutional so long as they are content neutral, narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and leave open ample channels for communication. In Hill v. Colorado, the majority ruled Colorado had a compelling interest in protecting its citizens from unwanted communication while not curtailing that communication entirely; although speakers have a right to persuade, the majority held, listeners also have a right to “be let alone.”

The Roberts Court had the chance to overrule Hill in McCullen, and it chose to punt instead. But the fact that Hill remains in place (for now) may not matter. Unlike Hill, where the Court framed its analysis on the impact of protesters’ actions and harassment on patients, the Court in McCullen has next to nothing to say about the impact of protester and “sidewalk counseling” speech on the listeners. After first, briefly, recognizing the legitimate public health and safety interest in keeping clinics harassment-free, Roberts turns his attention to what he sees as the real danger here.

At the same time, the buffer zones impose serious burdens on petitioners’ speech. At each of the three Planned Parenthood clinics where petitioners attempt to counsel patients, the zones carve out a significant portion of the adjacent public sidewalks, pushing petitioners well back from the clinics’ entrances and driveways. The zones thereby compromise petitioners’ ability to initiate the close, personal conversations that they view as essential to “sidewalk counseling.”

Roberts continues:

These burdens on petitioners’ speech have clearly taken their toll. Although McCullen claims that she has persuaded about 80 women not to terminate their pregnancies since the 2007 amendment, she also says that she reaches “far fewer people” than she did before the amendment. Zarrella [another petitioner] reports an even more precipitous decline in her success rate: She estimated having about 100 successful interactions over the years before the 2007 amendment, but not a single one since. And as for the Worcester clinic, Clark testified that “only one woman out of 100 will make the effort to walk across [the street] to speak with [her].”

The buffer zones have also made it substantially more difficult for petitioners to distribute literature to arriving patients. As explained, because petitioners in Boston cannot readily identify patients before they enter the zone, they often cannot approach them in time to place literature near their hands—the most effective means of getting the patients to accept it. In Worcester and Springfield, the zones have pushed petitioners so far back from the clinics’ driveways that they can no longer even attempt to offer literature as drivers turn into the parking lots. In short, the Act operates to deprive petitioners of their two primary methods of communicating with patients.

In other words, buffer zones work. So they’ve got to go.

As I noted here before the Court’s decision, one of the biggest differences between the Hill decision and McCullen is the composition of the Court. Justice Alito replaced Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and the Court hasmoved further to the right. But now that we have the McCullen decision, I think another big difference is the Roberts Court decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, which in 2007 upheld the federal “Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.” In that decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the 6-3 majority, justified upholding the ban in large part based on the unsubstantiated idea of abortion regret. “It seems unexceptionable to conclude some women come to regret their choice to abort the infant life they once created and sustained,” Kennedy wrote in Gonzales.

Is it any surprise then that a Court that so readily assumes to know what women do and do not regret as a means of upholding one anti-choice law would latch on to the unsubstantiated testimony of McCullen to strike at  legislation designed to protect the rights of those very women Justice Kennedy concern-trolls in Gonzales?

I hate to say it, but it gets worse: Next term, the Roberts Court will hear the case of Elonis v. United States, a case that questions the constitutionality of laws that criminalize online threatening speech. At the heart of Elonis is a fight over what is and is not a “true threat”—the very question also at the heart of the emerging legal challenges to targeted, individual instances of clinic and provider harassment under the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act and state-level anti-harassment and anti-stalking laws. The majority in McCullen points to these kinds of laws as proof that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts did not narrowly tailor its buffer zone law enough. If states and localities are so concerned about clinic violence, Roberts writes in McCullen, then they should look first to these laws, which in the Court’s opinion are far better suited to address instances of violence and harassment. Of course the opinion in McCullen is silent on the looming threats to even those protections.

Thursday’s decision didn’t strike down all buffer zones per se, but I suspect we’ll see more legal challenges to other buffer zones with anti-choice activists continuing to argue that Hill v. Colorado should be overturned. And if the Roberts Court’s approach to abortion rights is anything like its approach to voting rights or affirmative action policies, then we will see exactly that happen. Which brings us back to our gentle, plump grandma and the very smart choice by the anti-choice right to put her front-and-center in this fight. After all, what better way to make the case for gutting protections for patients and providers then to flip the script and make grandma the real victim.

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  • purrtriarchy

    No one has the right to persuade anyone else. That’s not free speech.

  • Will Josephs

    One has got to marvel at the hubris of someone, who while she doesn’t quite come right out and say it, fancies herself smarter and better equipped to render a decision on a SCOTUS case than the NINE (9) SCOTUS Justices (Liberal and Conservative) who just rendered an UNANIMOUS DECISION.

    It really begs the question of what Progressive Law Professors are teaching their young charges these days that their views of the Constitution and Rule of Law differ so vastly from our recognized Constitutional Scholars and experts.

    It is a sad state of affairs which bodes very poorly for the future of American under the influence of mostly Godless, anti-Constitutional, hyper-feminist Progressives.

    It’s also beyond ludicrous to talk about the “very real threats of violence that abortion providers and patients face, but also erase providers and patients from the Supreme Court’s analysis almost entirely,” and IGNORE the empirical fact that not just the mere (imagined) threats of violence but the lethal act of violence is perpetrated against ~1,100,000 precious gestating babies annually by their own mothers who do so with legal impunity!

    The ratio of actual lethal violence (not just mere verbal threats) perpetrated against innocent gestating babies versus any actual violence (non-lethal or otherwise) perpetrated against women about to become mothers of dead babies and their conspiratorially complicit abortion-bodyguards has got to be upwards of tens if not hundreds of millions.

    We can end ALL abortion related lethal violence and verbal threats of violence simply by killing once and for all Roe v Wade, and rather than killing over 56,000,000 gestating babies over the next 41 years birthing, nurturing and loving them into full womanhood and manhood.

    • purrtriarchy

      So you support the murder of women and their doctors?

    • sophie

      Your comments should be deleted, as you are obviously an insane individual.

    • lady_black

      How many babies have you gestated, Will? You will never stop abortion. You will only kill women.

      • purrtriarchy

        Speaking of killing women, you might find this interesting. I just typed it out from the recent issue of Discover magazine:

        he health benefits of fetal stem cells is an oft repeated claim from anti-abortionists. That ‘baby ‘gives back’. Unfortunately for the woman, fetal stem cell transfer is a double edged sword. From the JulyAugust 2014 issue of Discover magazine p.12 (typed out by hand):

        FETAL ATTRACTION: Mothers to be may have their babies to blame for a poorly understood medical condition.

        Fresh from prenatal yoga, a woman walks into her 35 week OB appointment glowing. But the doc frowns as she watches the woman’s normally low blood pressure soar past 140. Then a routine test shows protein in her urine. Diagnosis: preeclampsia. These few symptoms are often the only indications of the condition; the mom to be feels fine, but until she has her baby, she will likely be put on bed rest and monitored closely, as preeclampsia can quickly escalate to severe swelling, seizures and even coma or death.

        As many as 8 percent of pregnant women worldwide are diagnosed with preeclampsia, and while the condition is on the rise in the USA, no one knows exactly what causes it. Some researchers have suspected fetal DNA or pieces of the placenta – long known to circulate in the bodies of pregnant women – could kick off an inflammatory immune response intended to kill and clean up the intruders. Hilary Gammill, an OBGYN at the university of Washington, has spent years looking at fetal cells in particular. In a recent study, she and colleagues compared blood samples from 46 pregnant women diagnosed with preeclamspia with samples from 47 women with uncomplicated pregancies. The researchees found that the women with preeclampsia were more likely to have in fact fetal cells in their bloodstream, and many more of them.

        While carrying more fetal cells seems to protect against breast cancer, women with severe preeclamspia have up to an eightfold risk of cardiovascular disease later in life. Such outcomes may be linked to an immune response similar to that of preeclamspia. “It’s sort of a double edged word,” Gammill says.

        She aims to learn more about these stowaway cells so she can figure out what triggers preeclampsia and tailor treatments for her patients, who may experience its effects long after pregnancy. – Cameron Walker

        • lady_black

          Very interesting.

    • StudentHealer

      One has got to marvel at the hubris of a man who, while he doesn’t come right out and say it, fancies himself more knowledgeable about women’s bodies than women themselves… and more knowledgeable about the science of embryology than the credible textbooks currently printed… and so knowledgeable about anti-choice violence that he dismisses the bombings, arson, assault and murder of *actual* persons as “imagined”. Hubris, forsooth!

      I could easily dismantle your arguments, point by point, but that would take a lot more of my time than it’s worth. Since I type very quickly, though… suffice it to say that you, and all who believe so falsely as you do, ought to disabuse yourselves of the notion that you have anything to do with “life”. Better ethicists than I have proven that many, many times over.

      So then what *are* all of you doing, if not working yourselves into a lathered frenzy to save lives? Well, you’re stripping women of bodily autonomy, for one (blastocysts, embryos and fetuses do not have a right to a uterus. The woman who explicitly owns that uterus must give her consent. And no, having sex does NOT equal consent to pregnancy). While stripping women of bodily autonomy, you’re making it harder for women to actually live. I don’t mean that loftily, either – you’re literally forcing women into a dangerous gestation, since abortion is many times safer than pregnancy ever could statistically be. You are literally trying to force women to risk their lives for your wrong-headed and false beliefs.

      There is no “life” in your impassioned posts; there is only the misery and slaughter of untold numbers of women who did not have to die, but did and probably will because people like you force them to. It is maybe another mark of the hubris you possess that you claim such fervor for the life of (literally) microscopic bundles of cells, but not one single word of care for the living and breathing women you’re forcing to live and die by your skewed views.

      • Shan

        “you claim such fervor for the life of (literally) microscopic bundles of cells”

        Noooo! They’re precious gestating babies!!!


        • StudentHealer

          The urge to roll my own eyes at Will’s post was so strong, I’m pretty sure my eyes rolled me.

      • Sydney

        “One has got to marvel at the hubris of a man who, while he doesn’t come right out and say it, fancies himself more knowledgeable about women’s bodies than women themselves… ”


    • Unicorn Farm

      “One has got to marvel at the hubris of someone, who while she doesn’t quite come right out and say it, fancies herself smarter and better equipped to render a decision on a SCOTUS case than the NINE (9) SCOTUS Justices (Liberal and Conservative) who just rendered an UNANIMOUS DECISION”
      Oh, I guess you agree with Roe v. Wade then, do you? After all, surely you’re not saying you’re smarter than the Justices.

      • Marlowe53

        I may not be smarter than any of the nine but I live in the real world and this was a bad decision, one of many produced by the Roberts Court.

    • P. McCoy

      No babies are killed in an abortion; personhood is acquired at birth. Your ravings against feminists, progressives and secular humanists prove that you are an incorrigible bigot who is Intimidated by strong independent women, many of whom are not atheists as well as possessing minds of their own and use them, refusing to be controlled by religious fanatics eager to overthrow our secular government and establish a theocracy. Most women don’t “regret” their abortions until they have been subjected to brainwashing shaming sessions conducted by fetal idol worshippers.

      • fiona64

        Someone’s an angry little MRA, isn’t he?

        • P. McCoy

          Yes and thanks .Know and fight against your enemies with ruthless zeal- no quarter asked and none given!

      • Rita, Canberra

        Let’s just sort out the ‘personhood’ language. In the formal legal language of founding international human rights instruments: “‘person’ means every human being”.
        The State has no authority to divide the human race into ‘persons’ and ‘non-persons’, while deeming the privileged group only to be worthy of human rights protection.
        Now, when it comes to a profound understanding of human rights law, our present generation can’t hold a candle to the exceptionally gifted group of post-World War II philosophers, seasoned international lawyers and politically astute men and women UN delegates who drafted the Universal Declaration. Their collective intellectual powers were formidable, sharpened by the shocking revelations of massive human rights atrocities perpetrated by the Nazi state which included abortion “services” (“…the unborn children were denied legal protection” (Nuremberg Trials Record).
        At no time in the drafting history was any consent given to the idea that any group of human beings at any particular stage of life or condition of dependency could be excluded from human rights protection by any State legislature or judicial interpretation.

        Human rights are not predicated on size or independence or ‘wantedness.
        It is not age or maturity or “being born”that confers human rights, it is just being a human. This is the irrevocable legal basis of all human rights.

        • P. McCoy

          You need to know (I have written this before) no human being can force another to surrender her bodily goods (what the zygote, embryo or fetus) takes in its parasitic relationship to its host’s body in order to exist. If heinous people looking like yourself force pregnancies then forced donations of organs etc; next. Also, why do you dodge the issue about predators in your church – don’t you care about those humans? Or are your predator priests just poor sinners that need compassion instead of being arrested.

        • purrtriarchy

          Person means SENTIENT human, at the very least.

          Which is why we routinely unplug non-sentient but alive humans all the time – no mind= no person.

          Unborn humans are mindless and thus not people.

          • Rita, Canberra

            The science set down in medical textbooks on fetology tells us unequivocally that a young fetus does exist as a human being–demonstrably a distinctly human being with a complete human genome, a human being at the fetal stage of human life.

            Now if you want to introduce a philosophical argument for making a checklist of characteristics that a human being must have before
            that human being is to be permitted to be the beneficiary of human rights protection (e.g., top of your personal list: “sentience”) then you place all humanity at the mercy of selectors who decide arbitrarily whether a particular human being has enough of the listed preferences to be deemed to have human dignity and worth or is just a disposable ‘thing’ not a ‘who’.

            Regrettably it was on just such a philosophical basis of discriminatory selection of those deemed to be “non-human’ and
            ‘life unworthy of life’ that some of the most horrific crimes against humanity were perpetrated.

          • purrtriarchy

            You are wrong.

            The people targeted in genocides were quite obviously:

            Self aware
            Capable of mental abstraction

            A prenate is capable of NONE OF THE ABOVE

            unborn humans are functionally brain dead – they have more in common with a beating heart cadaver than with an actual person

            You are IGNORANT

            And FYI, every cell in your body, tumours, and hydatidiform moles all have the “complete human genome”.

          • kitler

            The science set down in medical textbooks on fetology tells us
            unequivocally that a young fetus does exist as a human
            being–demonstrably a distinctly human being with a complete human
            genome, a human being at the fetal stage of human life.

            You’re wrong. But that’s no surprise. All that embryology tells us is that zygotes/embryos/fetuses are human organisms. Science does not tell us that they are human beings or persons. Human being is a synonym for person.

            Biologist Scott Gilbert writes:


            This view states that a genetically unique person begins at conception – a fertilized egg now hosts a complete genome, making it distinct from the sex cells that came before it. This definition has the advantage of saying that a new individual has been created that can be distinct from its parents, but is still limited by the fact that this embryo is still in an early stage of development and far from viable as an individual.

            This view also causes a funny paradox in the case of monozygotic (identical) twins: each twin does not exist as an individual when “its life begins” – that is, when it is conceived as the embryo doesn’t split into two parts until later. This paradox could possibly be resolved by considering the pre-twinning embryo as a disparate entity from either of the resulting embryos. This is why viewing the formation of life as a continuous process rather than a single event is beneficial.

            Instructions for Development and Heredity are NOT all in the Fertilised egg. The view that we are genetically determined by the combination of parental DNA has been shown to fall far short of the complete story. How the DNA is interpreted can vary greatly affected by things such as the maternal diet. Similarly some development requires certain bacteria to be present. Thirdly, and most surprisingly, the level of maternal care can determine which areas of DNA are ‘methylated’ which radically alters how they are interpreted. As such the view that we are ‘complete but unformed’ at conception is far from accurate.

            The Embryo is NOT Safe Within the Womb. Modern research shows that 30% or fewer fertilised eggs will go on to become foetuses. Many of these early miscarriages are because of abnormal numbers of chromosomes. The view that every fertilised egg is a potential human being is wrong in around 70% of cases.

            There is NOT a Moment of Fertilisation when the passive egg receives the active sperm.Again recent research has shown that the previous commonly held view that the fastest sperm races towards the egg and, bingo, we’re up and running is wrong on many levels. Fertilisation is a process taking up to four days. As such there is no magic moment, rather there is a process.

            There is NO consensus amongst scientists that life begins at conception.There isn’t even consensus amongst scientists as to whether there’s consensus. However, Scott Gilbert’s paper lists embryologists who support each of the major view points belying the common and oft repeated assertion that there is consensus amongst embryologists, let alone scientists.


            Just as death is usually defined by the cessation of brain activity, so the start of life can be defined as the start of a recognisable Electroencephalography[wp] (EEG) pattern from the fetus. This is usually twenty four to twenty seven weeks after conception.[1]

            The point of using neurological factors rather than other signs such as a heartbeat is that this is a much more useful indicator from the point of view of science. A heart beats using mostly involuntary muscle movements so is really little different from any other spontaneous motion or metabolic processes. A heartbeat means relatively
            little in real terms, although it is more dramatic from an emotive point of view.

            When discussing the philosophical and/or ethical
            issues, surrounding the start of life the desire for science to provide a clear cut human/non human boundary is very understandable. We need to be able to define this because it is important in our laws and our understandings. However, even from the brief descriptions given above, it is clear that there is no simple answer that science can give. It may well be that reality doesn’t have an answer for us, and that “when does
            life begin?” is, in fact, a meaningless question.

            The entity created by fertilization is indeed a human embryo, and it has the potential to be human adult. Whether these facts are enough to accord it personhood is a question influenced by opinion, philosophy and theology, rather than by science.

            Indeed, the potential for human life can begin very early, but it is personhood that is the sticking point. The question is very much whether the two are equal and therefore happen at the same point. Leaving the answer in the hands of philosophy and opinion however makes the distinction between “life” and “non-life” purely subjective and the answer will be different for everyone. This is the most important fact to bear in mind, particularly when discussing legalities – subjective thoughts cannot and should not be forced upon everyone fairly.

            Biologist John M Sullivan MD PhD writes:

            You and I contain much, much more information, both genetic and otherwise, than a blastocyst. That’s why I can write this column and you can read it, whereas a blastocyst just.. .sits there. Indeed, that is the exactly the point of stem cell research: the stem cells in the blastocyst have not yet acquired the molecular programming required for differentiation, and so they remain pluripotent, awaiting the necessary molecular signals (the information) that will tell them whether to become nerve or muscle, skin or bone.

            A blastocyst is nothing more than a little clump of cells, each of them a snippet of DNA surrounded by cytoplasm. But that DNA was later transcribed into RNA, and that RNA was translated into proteins. And some of those proteins were transcription factors that told other cells in the blastocyst what to do, when to divide, where to migrate. Transcription factors regulated the expression of still other transcription factors. Genes were turned on and off with clockwork precision. Some genes were methylated, so they could never be turned on again.

            In other words, the genome and the proteome of the blastocyst were changed as the embryo accumulated molecular information that the blastocyst did not have.

            The embryo became a fetus, with complex orientations of tissues–loaded with spatial, genetic, biochemical and mechanical information that simply did not exist in the embryo.

            The fetus became a child with a nervous system, and that nervous system sucked up information about the world, hard-wiring pathways for vision and movement, learning to make subtle distinctions between this and that, accumulating information that simply did not exist in the fetus.

            In other words, the blastocyst launched a genetic program that both extracted and acquired information. It didn’t start out as a human being. It became a human being, with a personality, feelings, attitudes and memories, by accumulating information that was not there before.

            Equating a blastocyst with a human being is like equating a brand new copy of an inexpensive spreadsheet program with the priceless databases that you’ll eventually build up with that program. It’s no less ridiculous than saying that a blueprint has the same value as a skyscraper–that it is the skycraper.

            No. They are not the same.

          • StudentHealer

            I’m glad I don’t mind long posts. :) That was beautifully put together and I thank you for posting it (and for giving me some other works to read and think about). Well done.

          • Arekushieru

            No, the most horrific crimes against humanity were perpetrated by those who believed JUST as you do. Specifically, that one is inferior but that another is also SUPERIOR. It’s really too bad, though, that your ilk leaves that last out of the equation as if obfuscating the truth by leaving out parts of it in your little revisionism of history will suffice to convince people otherwise. Just as Hitler believed that Jews were inferior, he ALSO believed that Germans were SUPERIOR. The same way YOU believe women are inferior, and fetuses are SUPERIOR. If it was JUST about personhood, you wouldn’t need to elevate a fetus beyond the host it inhabits, as well, after all.

            It’s what led slave-owners to protect the gestated fetuses of female slaves when they whipped them, after all. They decided that slaves, especially female slaves, were not worthy of rights on TOP of the fact that they weren’t believed to be persons. While, like your ilk, they believed that even though fetuses aren’t persons, they were worthy of MORE rights than those born. Oops. It’s not lack of personhood that denies one human rights protection, because, with ABORTION legal, not conferring personhood status on fetuses, are everyone’s human rights protected. By making it ILLEGAL, you are removing the protection of the human rights of women, AS we have told you over and over, AS WELL AS protecting the human ‘rights’ of fetuses more than anyone born.

            AS we have also fucking told you several times over, the terms used to describe a fetus in biology and embryology textbooks are synonymous with the term human, which is NOT the same as person.

          • goatini

            //Regrettably it was on just such a philosophical basis of discriminatory selection of those deemed to be “non-human’ and ‘life unworthy of life’ that some of the most horrific crimes against humanity were perpetrated.//

            Well, for starters, you’re one of the biggest dehumanizer of innocent female US citizens that pollutes this site, and secondly, as the child of a survivor, I find your lies and BS to be profoundly abhorrent to the actual LIVING PERSONS AND CITIZENS that perished at the hands of the Third Reich.

        • Suba gunawardana

          How come you can NEVER address the point that no individual has the right to use another person’s body without their consent?

          • Rita, Canberra

            Your argument is based on an unsubstantiated presumption that the innocent unborn child can be charged with culpability for being in her mother’s womb. This is silly–every mother knows how she became pregnant–it wasn’t the fault of her little daughter–there was no malicious intent on her little daughter’s part.

            And it is even more nonsensical to suggest that this little human being has deliberately and knowingly or negligently failed to obtain consent for her lively presence in her mother’s womb.

          • purrtriarchy

            So if a cognitively disable child, with the mind of a newborn, starts viciously raping and beating you, you cannot use lethal force to escape because the attacker is INNOCENT AND KNOWS NOT WHAT THEY DO?

            yes or no?

          • Suba gunawardana

            Culpability of the invader has NOTHING to do with protecting your body.

            Does the *lack of malicious intent* on the part of the invader negate your right to protect your body?

            In other words, when an innocent individual invades your body, are you OBLIGATED to endure the invasion at the expense of your body? (For example, if a mentally disabled man is raping you, are you obligated to allow the rape to go on?)

            Yes or No? This is a simple question.

          • Rita, Canberra

            What kind of sick hate-filled thinking is this that a mother would imagine that her little daughter or son being nurtured in her womb is actually raping her?
            How much more hysterical and hateful can this extremist ideological claptrap become?

          • kitler

            Rape = use of your body without consent

            In rape your body is being used as a mere means to an end – the rapists pleasure

            In forced pregnancy your body is used as a mere means to an end – as a life support system for a prenate.

            In both cases, what the woman wants is ignored, as her body is used for the benefit of another. That is rape, and forced pregnancy qualifies.

            Aren’t you in favour of forcing 8 year old rape victims to give birth, rita? Even if it kills and maims them? Explain how that is not a hate filled stance. Thx.

          • kitler

            And I suggest that you reply to what suba actually said about culpability.

            I realize that you are going the outrage route because you are too dimwitted to rationally debate suba.

          • Suba gunawardana

            So your only response is an emotional rant?

            I asked a Yes or No question. Can you answer that or not? If not, how weak is your whole stance? :)

          • goatini

            //How much more hysterical and hateful can this extremist ideological claptrap become?//

            Yours? There are no depths to which your hysterical, hateful extremist ideological claptrap will not descend in order to try to regress females to the status of chattel property livestock.

          • expect_resistance

            Why do you refer to a fetus as a “daughter?”

          • Rita, Canberra

            Of course, I mean “daughter or son” and “her or his” and “she or he”–but it just makes sentences so clumsy.
            In addition, to use “daughter” makes it a whole lot clearer that wanting to provide some legal protection for these little ones from being aborted cannot be sensibly regarded as part of “the war on women” as has been infamously asserted by certain ideologues.

          • kitler

            You want to force 8 year old rrape victims to give birth even if it kills and maims them.

            Sure sounds to me like you are the one who hates women, darling Rita.

          • Arekushieru

            Wrong. Women can perpetuate the war on women just as easily as men can. Whether the fetus is female or male is, de facto, irrelevant. Daughter applies to a BORN human, as well, btw.

          • lady_black

            You can “protect” these “little ones” with your own body to your heart’s content. To the bodies of other women you have no right, thus you cannot “protect” anything. It’s out of your hands.

          • goatini

            Said one of the foot soldiers in the Misogynist Battalion.

          • lady_black

            “Culpability” simply doesn’t matter. No matter how the embryo happened to get there, it doesn’t necessarily get to stay. I can invite someone into my home. When I want them to leave, it’s time for them to go. If they don’t leave when asked, they are a trespasser. Consent is not a once and done proposition, Rita. Otherwise, anyone who you donated blood to once has an ongoing right to demand blood from you because you consented once. We don’t live in that kind of a world.

          • goatini

            No such thing as an “unborn child” – you are not an “unborn corpse”. And a fetus cannot, by definition, be “innocent” – the capacity for innocence requires sentience. If the fetus causes the woman’s death, it most certainly is not “guilty”. Therefore it also cannot be “innocent”.

            And your treacly nonsense might work on the dimwitted and brainwashed, but it does not fly here, since we deal in facts and rights.

  • Will Josephs

    “In unrefuted testimony, petitioners say they have collectively persuaded hundreds of women to forgo abortions.” – CHIEF JUSTICE JOHN ROBERTS.

    If the means to a virtuous end – saving the life of even one of God’s precious babies gestating in utero – is legal, moral and non-violent in nature unlike filicide by abortion with impunity which is always lethally violent when “successful,” then any 1L being taught by Constitutional Professors will agree with not only Chief Justice John Roberts but the other eight (8) Justices whose decisions agreed with his.

    In other words, buffer zones abrogate the Constitution’s 1st amendment and result in MORE babies being killed, not fewer. Indeed, they had to go and now they’re gone!

    It is an alternate universe our author resides in if she concludes the court is “more conservative” as a result of adding feminists Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. But no matter, all the Liberals and Feminists voted with the majority. Had Justice Sandra Day O’Connor still resided on the court and abandoned the 1st amendment the decision would have been 8 – 1 rather than 9 – 0. No matter.

    It is well substantiated that some to many women regret their decision to kill their baby(s) gestating in utero. One need only listen to the testimonies of women who publicly state so. Entire rallies have been conducted by women who Regret their Abortions and say so publicly. See the attached photo.

    • purrtriarchy

      You do not have a *right* to convince anyone of anything.

    • Marlowe53

      There have been about fifty million abortions since Roe v. Wade was decided. Nowhere near fifty million women are expressing regret for having an abortion. We don’t need you or McClellan or anyone else to insert yourself into our private medical decisions. We certainly don’t need you shouting in our faces, calling us murderers or telling us any other lies about abortion.
      But that won’t stop you and it looks like the US Supreme Court won’t either. Yet, you won’t stop us, either. Those old ladies were lying through their false teeth. By the time a woman gets to the abortion clinic, she’s made her decision and some people screaming at her are not going to stop her from having an abortion. It’s just going to make it more difficult for her which I suspect is your true goal anyway.

      • fiona64

        Will is doing a fabulous job of proving how easy it is to be an anti-choice male. He just waves his big, dumb paw in the air and pronounces on how much medical risk a given woman must take — risks, I hasten to point out, that will never affect him whatsoever.

        • Sydney

          I cal them supercilious twits…when I’m being friendly.

        • bitchybitchybitchy

          Will is also showing off his contempt for the ability of women to make their own decisions about their health and lives. Will doesn’t want to admit that under his alleged concern for womens’ health is his own fear and rage that women choose not to be mothers, that women choose to have sex because it’s pleasurable.

    • fiona64

      It is well substantiated that some to many women regret their decision to kill their baby(s) gestating in utero

      Actually, Will, what’s been well-documented is exactly the *opposite.* 90 percent of women feel nothing but relief. That remaining 10 percent cohort is primarily composed of women whose wanted pregnancies went dreadfully wrong.

      You’re welcome.

      • bitchybitchybitchy

        It may not be well documented, but something tells me that most sentient women would run screaming from a man such as Will Josephs, who presumes to know more about women than they themselves do. Call this my ‘feminine’ intuition.

    • Suba gunawardana

      -It’s funny how god never steps up to protect “God’s precious babies gestating in utero”. If god were against abortion, why does he let it go on? Wouldn’t he have put a stop to it a long time ago? Furthermore why does god perform millions of abortions himself in the form of miscarriage? Maybe god LOVES abortion & you are all going against god :)

      -What happens to the “babies” you alleged “save” and force upon women unable/unwilling to care for them? How long do they live, if at all? Do they get starved/beaten/raped/abused/abandoned? Do you care? Or do you just love seeing children suffer?

      Isn’t it funny that these “abortion regretters” are to be found ONLY on anti-choice functions or websites, never in real life?

      • bitchybitchybitchy

        There are also lots of precious children around the world who are abused, neglected, poor, malnourished-so why does God let those atrocities occur? The antis have a very, very selective image of God.

    • lady_black

      Doesn’t look like much of a “rally” to me. You’ll find more people in the average dollar store at any given moment than appear in your so-called rally.

    • goatini

      But since the vast majority of patients not only do NOT regret exercising their rights to a safe, legal pregnancy termination, but experience RELIEF, you would be full of crap.

    • Dez

      Yet there is the first amendment that keeps your magical thinking out of my life and body.

  • nonsequiteuse

    If they deny they are protesters, and assert they are “sidewalk counselors,” then regulate them the way we license any and all other counselors – degrees, certifications, continuing education, licenses with review by state boards, etc. If they are specifically providing medical advice, license & regulate them like doctors. Require that they have malpractice insurance. They don’t get to have it both ways.

    • Will Josephs

      Many people do sidewalk counseling without a degree or certification: including evangelists, hawkers of cell phones, women trying to get other women to sign petitions, women trying to get men to sign petitions, people directing other people to their employers’ place of business, etc.

      Counselor is a term we differentiate from Psychiatrist, Psychologist, Social worker or Therapist. Anyone can give counsel without being a certified Counselor. We sometimes refer to an attorney as “Counselor,” hoping he’ll give wise legal advice, sometimes as much as an initial 45 minutes or more for free!

      Every time someone asks a friend, relative, hairdresser, bartender or stranger for counsel or advice, IF the person complies and answers s/he is behaving as an informal counselor and needs no degree or certification to do so. And every time someone volunteers wise counsel about which makeup to use, which ode de cologne to spray one, which phone to buy, which food to eat or whether to save a baby’s life or kill her s/he needs no degree or license to do so; his/her moral, just and wise counsel is just one form of many forms of speech (statement, query, admonition, imperative, rebuke, etc.,) protected under the 1st amendment.

      As one wise sage said, “If ‘FUCK YOU’ is protected counsel then certainly, ‘Don’t kill your baby, we’ll help you mother her or place her up for adoption’ must be.”

      NOTE: The women who counsel others (especially men they don’t like) with “FUCK YOU” are most often hyper-feminist women who support filicide via abortion with impunity. Just check out the #YesAllWomen, #FEM2, #PROCHOICE #ProtectTheZone #NotCounseling #1in3 #Stalking #Harassment and other hashtags haunted by hyper-feminist women.

      • Shan

        “NOTE: The women who counsel others (especially men they don’t like)
        with “FUCK YOU” are most often hyper-feminist women who support filicide
        via abortion with impunity.”

        Do you get a lot of “FUCK YOU!” responses, then?

      • fiona64

        The women who counsel others (especially men they don’t like) with “FUCK YOU”

        I’m going out on a limb here, Will, but I’d guess you hear that a lot …

        • expect_resistance

          I’m sure he hears that a lot. I just can’t comprehend their twisted mindset of thinking that verbally abusing women is helpful.

        • Shan

          Only from hyper-feminist women who support filicide via abortion with impunity.

        • colleen2

          I certainly hope so. It is the appropriate response. The religious right refuses to allow women the right of consent in ANYTHING, including our choice of ‘counselors’.

      • lady_black

        In all of the instances you’ve named, the person is seeking counsel. And yes, you can seek the counsel of anyone. That doesn’t make that person a counselor. And if I were walking into a women’s clinic and some insane person walked up and implored me “not to kill my baby” I’d probably start with “fuck you” and work to much more unpleasant experiences from there. You have no idea why that woman is walking into a clinic. She might be having an abortion. Then again, she might be picking up her pills, having an examination or just picking up a friend. It’s none of your damn business why she’s going in there. Medical treatment is private, and it doesn’t cease to be private because it’s being done for a woman.

      • Jennifer Starr

        If I want counseling, I will go to a licensed counselor. Or I will talk to a friend or family member and seek advice. Total strangers who approach me unsolicited and attempt to insert themselves into my private medical decisions don’t count as anything but harassers, and will be treated as such. If I want your opinion, I will ask for it, and guess what? I didn’t ask you.

        • Jennifer Starr

          Reply to Mark Faherty in moderation. Unless you can carry my pregnancy for me (and I’m betting that you can’t), it is very much a private medical issue, regardless of the choice I make. And you? Well, you get to butt the hell out. Isn’t that nice?

      • expect_resistance

        Unsolicited “sidewalk counseling” is not welcome. These “counselors” are bullies that harass and intimidate women seeking reproductive health services. Their “intervention” is not welcomed and either is the anti-choice bullying and violence.

      • P. McCoy

        Unsolicited ‘advice’ is harassment. Maybe what is needed is reciprocal ‘advice’ going to pro life headquarters and churches waving pictures of bleeding dead or dying women killed by illegal abortions, images of brutalized unwanted children and in terms of the Catholic church, wanted posters of pedophile priests and their victims who have yet to receive justice. Call them out as co conspirators in rape, murder and such- yes reciprocity would be a good thing
        Better still are laws that break these terrorists financially and physically- send them ALL to Federal Prisions to ROTand sue their organizations and families into poverty!

      • colleen2

        This is PROSELYTIZING, not ‘counseling’. Proselytizing is an attempt at forced conversion. It’s that old consent problem again. You know, the one that folks like you always run up against when you’re trying to force women and children to do things that hurt and demean us because our suffering gives you pleasure.

      • goatini

        //hyper-feminist women//

        ^^ The impotent hate and rage of a small, mean man.

      • Dez

        Did any of the women entering a clinic give you permission to involve yourself in their private medical life?

  • bitchybitchybitchy

    Whether Mrs. McCullen is gentle is beside the point. She is attempting to impose her personal morality on other women and ignoring their personal autonomy and integrity in being able to decide for themselves whether or not to have children. She is not a counselor;she is a busybody,interfering biddy and furthermore she cynically allowed herself to be used to put a kinder face on a nasty bunch of religious bigots. So, go home and shut up Mrs. McCullen-and take your lying, deceiving ‘counselors’ with you.

  • kitler

    Here is a list of articles written by Rita, Canberra:

    Not a huge surprise, but she opposes contraception and female equality.

  • smrnda

    I have never imagined that freedom of speech included the right to harass people. The idea that women getting abortions might want to hear this *counseling* is as shoddy as framing intrusive telemarketing as free speech, and far more insidious and dangerous given the situation.

    It’s also absurd and patronizing to pretend that women seeking abortions need this “counseling” – the pro life position has been blasted everywhere, and any woman choosing to go to a clinic has surely thought about the issue.

  • goatini

    Um, “offspring” had to have sprung off, as in BEEN BORN, to be called such.

    No children are ever harmed in any way whatsoever in a safe, legal pregnancy termination.

  • goatini

    The percentage of mortalities associated with safe, legal pregnancy termination since 1973 is .0007, making it one of THE most safe outpatient medical procedures of all.

  • goatini

    All babies, ever, have already been born, and you – and all sidewalk stalkers – ARE evil, hateful bullies.

  • goatini

    Oh, I’m sorry, but safe, legal pregnancy termination is, may I remind you, LEGAL. No person is being “killed” in a safe, legal pregnancy termination.

  • kitler

    You want to bully women into gestational slavery.

  • kitler

    Abortion is safer than pregnancy

  • kitler

    What is a human being?

  • Jennifer Starr

    Only no one is talking about killing children.

  • Suba gunawardana

    If sentience is a reason not to kill any individual, what is your excuse for killing billions of fully grown sentient animals each day for our necessity, convenience and mere pleasure?

    If sentience is a reason not to kill, you should oppose war, self defense, protection by police, and death penalty. In addition to opposing the killing of any and all animals. Do you?

  • Suba gunawardana

    If a mother “kills her child” there will be no offspring on whom to impose her morality. The offspring is dead, remember?

  • Suba gunawardana

    What about all the women dead & injured from childbirth? Even if they never wanted children?

    Incidentally NO women are forced into abortion here (or anywhere else except China). Women are forced into childbirth here and all over the world. Regardless of the fact that childbirth is far more dangerous than abortion.

  • Suba gunawardana

    To force other people’s unwanted children into birth and abandon them in a hostile world IS to attack babies. It is an act of willful premeditated child abuse.

  • Suba gunawardana

    No individual, human or not, has the right to invade the body of another human being without their consent. Once they do so, the invader no longer has a “right to life”. Whether the invader gets to live is totally upto the person whose body was invaded.

  • fiona64

    If you know of anyone who has killed her child, contact your local law enforcement agency.

  • fiona64

    You are doing a fabulous job of proving how easy it is to be an anti-choice male, Mark. You just wave your big, stupid paw in the air and proclaim on how much financial, medical and physical risk a woman should be forced to take with gestation … risks that you will never have to assume yourself.

    Which of YOUR private medical decisions should I be allowed to interfere in Mark?

  • Dez

    My problem is that these protestors think they have women’s permission to involve themselves in their private medical choices and appointments. When did any woman go up to this protestors at a clinic and grant them permission to discuss the woman’s private medical decisions?

  • Dez

    LOL. That’s as laughable and pathetic as black women being so stupid they are brainwashed into getting abortions. But you would rather have women die in back alley abortions. Of course they didn’t have a choice because “pro-life” is pro-death for women.

  • Dez

    So it’s with you that the protestors threaten, harass, and stalk women as long as they are trying to save a “baby?” How “pro-life” of you.

  • Dez

    Then we should have a buffer zone since “pro-life” terrorists like you like to kill and maim pro-choice women and medical personnel.

  • Anita Schreuder

    Where do I live? Crisis Pregnancy Center Of Southwest Mississippi

    406 Delaware Avenue

    Mccomb, MS 39648

  • wildthang

    Seems to me the court has a bias in favor of getting woman not to have an abortion. There is no public need to keep women from legal abortions. The court itself decided long ago that there is a need to allow abortions, a right related to woman’s own body. It is a violation of their private medical right to allow someone to pester and intimidate or insinuate they need any help at all. If they think they need information and help they certainly are free to approach them voluntarily. This assumes they need to be convinced of anything. It is the protester who needs to affirm their beliefs by overpowering theirs.

  • Kathryn Ranieri

    Lots of plump ones in the anti abortion industry. Take a look.