Free speech: What is it good for anyway?

By Eli Talbert / For The Pitt News

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It’s official. The Supreme Court has sold out to the Christian right. 

In an unanimous decision in the case of McCullen v. Coakley, the court struck down a Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot buffer area around abortion zones. The court declared the law unconstitutional on the strange and alien concept of free speech. 

Granted, the decision did not overrule an earlier decision that allowed for eight-foot bubble zones around individual women, nor did it legalize harassment. But the decision is still a travesty. 

The government should limit free speech if it is convenient for law enforcement — the Court is simply out of touch with the people’s needs. It may be the Supreme Court’s duty to interpret the Constitution and to protect the rights of individuals but, when an unanimous decision to strike down a law generates mass outrage, the system is obviously broken. 

Newsweek conducted a study in 2011 finding that 70 percent of Americans don’t know what the Constitution is and 63 percent don’t know the number of Supreme Court justices. I am confident, though, that these numbers have changed over the past three years. 

The Court’s decision will cause a number of ghastly problems. First, it opens the door to harassment. 

Massachusetts has a harassment law that prohibits actions that interfere with the free exercise of rights. But without the ability to arrest anyone that protests within 35 feet of an abortion clinic, the police are powerless to enforce the law — the eight-foot bubble space just isn’t convenient enough. 

To add insult to injury, the Court had the nerve to suggest that Massachusetts is able to enforce the law. 

“[Massachusetts] has available to it a variety of approaches that appear capable of serving its interests, without excluding individuals from areas historically open for speech and debate,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. 

Most disturbingly, the Obama administration, though supportive of the law in question, did not properly recognize the decision as atrocious. 

“We are pleased that their ruling was narrow and that they recognized the possibility of alternative approaches,” the Obama administration said in a released statement. 

It appears the Obama administration is also in on the covert war on women to insidiously deprive them of their reproductive rights.

After all, the case is about the war on women. Sure, the justices may have claimed that they solely focused on the concept of “free speech,” but really, every single one of them — including the three female justices of the court — just wants to make getting an abortion more difficult, probably for sinister reasons that have nothing to do with their duty to be impartial and decide the law based on legal reasoning rather than personal feelings.

Every patriot agrees that the vague language guaranteeing “free speech” in the Constitution is null and void whenever someone feels threatened in a public place — it’s what our forefathers fought the British for.

The right to privacy applies to public places as well as private ones. So, if you yell nasty things at me as I walk by, you should be arrested for infringing upon my feelings — sticks and stones may break my bones but words leave scars on my pride. 

Believe it or not, the actual plaintiff in the case was an elderly grandmother who claimed that she wanted to talk civilly and quietly to those entering abortion clinics in an effort to provide them with other options. 

Well, that’s too bad — she might have not personally screamed at women, but others certainly have, and her right to peaceful free speech is just collateral damage. She is a minority among those protesting outside of abortion clinics and, here in America, we punish groups, not individuals. Which might not be fair for some, but it’s fair for enough.   

Overall, we can either allow this travesty of free speech to continue or take a courageous stand for the rights of women everywhere. The choice is yours. 

Write to Eli at ejt26@pitt.edu

 

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