Colorado’s protective ‘bubble law’ near abortion clinics in jeopardy

In a rare unanimous decision, the most activist U.S. Supreme Court in recent history overturned a Massachusetts law establishing a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics in a decision handed down June 26, 2014.

The issue came before the court only because the chief justice chose that it should. As MSNBC’s Irin Carmon points out, “There was no split in the lower courts, one usual prompt for the Supreme Court, and both the district court and the First Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that the Massachusetts law was constitutional under the Supreme Court’s own precedent in a 2000 case.”

Writing for the court, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “An individual confronted with an uncomfortable message can always turn the page, change the channel, or leave the Web site. Not so on public streets and sidewalks,” which the First Amendment designates as “an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail.”

Stressing the importance of public space for free speech, Roberts wrote, “It is no accident that public streets and sidewalks have developed as venues for the exchange of ideas. Even today, they remain one of the few places where a speaker can be confident that he is not simply preaching to the choir.”

Despite conceding that Massachusetts has “legitimate interests in maintaining public safety on streets and sidewalks and in preserving access to adjacent reproductive healthcare facilities,” efforts to protect employees and clients of abortion clinics from anti-abortion protestors ultimately “impose serious burdens on petitioners’ speech, depriving them of their two primary methods of communicating with arriving patients: close, personal conversations and distribution of literature.”

The immediate impact of the law will be on Massachusetts, but inevitably similar laws in other states with will be challenged.

As Tessa Cheek of the Colorado Independent points out, the Massachusetts law initially was based on Colorado’s “bubble law” passed in 1993, and upheld in the Supreme Court in 2000.

Unlike the 35-foot perimeter established by Massachusetts, the Colorado law established a floating eight-foot “bubble” around a woman within 100 feet of a medical clinic.

When the “bubble” proved ineffective in protecting women from abuse, Massachusetts imposed its 35-foot perimeter.

In Hill v. Colorado, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled six to three that the state did not violate free speech protection by limiting protests, education, literature distribution, or verbal counseling within an eight-foot “bubble” around a person entering a health care facility.

Though Colorado’s “bubble law” was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2000, today its fate is less sure.

“Colorado struck a good balance in the law by protecting both free speech rights and the rights of patients and providers. The bill we passed set the standard. Women should be able to access health care without being threatened and harassed. Providers should be able to go to work without running a gauntlet,” Karen Middleton, of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado said in a press release immediately after the decision was announced.

Others are less sure of the Court’s intention. “The immediate impact of the decision will be on Massachusetts, but advocates expect that similar fixed-distance buffer zones in other states, including one currently being challenged in Maine, will be next,” said MSNBC’s Carmon.

“The Supreme Court upheld Colorado’s bubble law in a 2000 ruling,” Cheek said, “but today’s ruling has raised new questions about the fate of Colorado’s law.”

“If you were a betting man,” said Roger Evans, senior counsel at Planned Parenthood Federation of America said of restrictions on anti-abortion protests, “you would bet that they would all go.”

With an ironic look on the bright side, Evans announced,  “the silver lining to the court’s opinion is that it does not set the stage for even further erosion of the protective measures outside abortion clinics.”

Unfortunately, Evans’ optimism probably is premature.

Clearly Colorado’s laws to protect women from abuse when seeking health care are being undermined by an activist federal Supreme Court that substitutes its own values for the will of the people.

Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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PART 1. I do not respond to rebut incorrigible “liberal” sophist Bill Grant, but in hopes of giving my fellow Mesa County citizens, at least those who possess a measure of intellectual curiosity and honesty, some food for serious thought.
The abortion so-called “issue” should be easy to resolve politically, but because of the intellectually uncurious dead-ender zealots on both “sides” of the argument, it will take an amendment to the U.S. Constitution similar to the one I have proposed on my website at to get the job done.
Contrary to the usual (and boring) sophistic blather from the obfuscators, the issue has never been “women’s health”. It is at what point in his or her development, does a pre-born human child deserve the same “legal” rights and protections as all the rest of us post-birth human critters.
I believe that at least 90% of people are capable of seeing significant differences between terminating a zygote and the self-evident infanticide of so-called “partial birth” abortion.
The main intellectual problem is the tension inherent between each individual’s free-will-based moral autonomy and the coercion-based so-called “political authority” of the herd. That difficulty can be clarified by understanding that “authority” is in reality nothing more complicated than delegated will.
On the one hand humans have a survival need to choose their own behavior and be morally autonomous. On the opposite hand, the more ignorant, gullible and naïve among us delegate our wills to the dominant members of the stupid-human pecking order struggle who call themselves “government”. That’s a pity because I’ll guarantee you that most of us could do a LOT better job of running our own lives than to let “government” bosses tell us what to do.
I like to say that humans will never travel space in vehicles which exceed the speed of light unless we first solve the mystery of “government” by learning how to control our own personal behavior in sustainable ways. I sincerely believe that.
Human frailties aside for a moment, the main structural problem with the abortion issue is the mechanical differences between how the Creator’s free-will-based moral laws function and the way coercion-based so-called “postitive” human-made laws function.
God’s (or “Nature’s” for our “atheist” friends) voluntary-compliance cause-and-effect laws are love-based, free-will based, individualism-based and protect all individuals (1) equally, (2) separately, and (3) simultaneously, in other words, the so-called “Golden Rule” which has been wisely paraphrased as “don’t do to anyone else that which you wouldn’t want done to you.” Even atheists should be able to live with that concept, which some of them like to call “The Non-Aggression Principle”, since the mathematics of the equation are pragmatically the same for atheist and Christian alike, regardless of the nomenclature.

PART 2. In direct polar contrast, humankind’s deception-based, fear-based, coercion-based and monopoly-on-violence-based laws by definition and necessity inevitably pit the “legal” rights of one individual or group against the “legal” rights of another individual or group in the following dialectic perfectly exemplified by the abortion “issue”:  the child’s right to life (thesis) versus the mother’s right to privacy (antithesis). Under this paradigm, after spending huge amounts of money on lawyers for going into their courts, fraudulently called “the people’s courts”, a phony illusion (e.g. Roe v. Wade) of genuine resolution and harmony is arrived at (synthesis). This subtle and complex scam is known as the Hegelian dialectic, a means by which clever individuals create and manage social crises for the purpose of gaining power and money to benefit themselves.
So long as we insist on trying to solve the abortion so-called “issue” by using coercion-based human law, that necessarily means involving the so-called “political” processes.  And we must always remember, “politics” = person or group A trying to persuade person or group B to obey the will of A, most frequently for the personal financial benefit of A and to the personal financial detriment (higher taxes) of B. That is why “politics” = manipulation. That is why deception = the so-called “art” of politics. That is also why “politician” = professional deceiver, and why “political” = deception-based, or having to do with deception. Everybody is competing for political power to steal labor and money out of the “other guy’s” pocket and put it in their own. Politicians get votes by promising to be all things to all people. Because that is a physical impossibility, most of their promises of necessity get broken. Because they know this in advance, they are ALL liars to one degree or another. The king is always the most corrupt person in the kingdom. (The first two kings of ancient Israel, Saul and David, were murderers.) In my opinion, any person who sincerely wants to be the king is criminally insane and an implacable deadly enemy to the inalienable Creator-endowed rights of individual freedom and self-ownership. But I digress.

PART 3. So, in a nutshell, the constitutional amendment I propose (see at would give the mother’s right to privacy priority over the child’s right to life ONLY during the first trimester. In other words, any woman who wants to get an abortion could do it legally in the first trimester ONLY. After that, depending on the state, second trimester abortions might be illegal. Since we are necessarily dealing with the moral and intellectual limitations of inherently evil and inevitably corrupting One-Ring “government”, I would leave second trimester abortions to the “political” judgment of the various state legislatures. During the third trimester, the life of the child would be given priority over the privacy of the mother except to save the life of the mother.
The reason an amendment is necessary is because the U.S. Supreme Court has already demonstrated it’s moral and intellectual unworthiness by “slippery sloping” the first trimester abortions protected by Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) into partial birth abortions in Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000).
I believe that an overwhelming and permanently decisive majority of people would support such an amendment. The only problem I can foresee would be that the dead-enders wouldn’t exactly get their spoiled-brat ways, so they would never be satisfied with anything short of elimination of the “other side”. But then that’s the inherent nature of human “politics”, isn’t it?
I say all this as a “pro-lifer” whose personal “religion” (“world view” for our atheist friends) is that abortion is the moral equal of murder, but one who also intellectually understands the extreme limitations of human “law” and “politics”. I also understand the utterly hopeless folly of believing that all human ills can be somehow magically cured by coercion-based legislation. They can’t. As Leo Tolstoy so eloquently pointed out in “The Kingdom of God Is Within You”, the solutions must come from within each individual.
In his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language”, George Orwell said, “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia.”
As long as there is money to be made from the abortion issue, the dead-enders and those who profit from the controversy will strive to keep it alive and festering. That is all the more reason why we should not listen to the sophistic likes of Bill Grant and his intellectually uncurious ilk. They offer no solutions, only wannabe-clever “political” demonization of the Other. And that’s really kind of sad.

PART 4. If such an amendment as I propose were adopted and implemented, I fail to see how that would threaten Colorado’s “bubble” of protection around legal abortion seekers.
I don’t know how Colorado’s “bubble” got to be 8 feet, as opposed to, say, 10 feet or 6 feet, but to me it seems adequate for the purposes of preserving everybody’s 1st Amendment rights.
The point is that when a woman is walking up the sidewalk into an abortion clinic – the intellectually inaccurate term “health care facility” is a propaganda-motivated euphemism at best—it should not be permissible for a person or persons to physically bar her way. In my opinion, it is adequate for 1st Amendment purposes that pro-life activists can stand off to the side of the sidewalk and say what they have to say in non-profane, non-fighting-words language.
If such an amendment as I propose were implemented, it would no longer be necessary (or effective) for sophists to constantly being trying to “push the envelope” for political mileage with their faux-benign rhetoric and phony “concerns” à la Bill Grant and his self-perceived shaman-like gift for being able to discern what exactly is “the will of the people”. Wouldn’t that be a blessing?!
The subject of “abortion” – that is the subject of determining the stage of physical development where a human being should be accorded full and equal protection of law—is already hard enough without trying to make it harder just to score sophomoric “political” points.

Shorter John Wilkenson: abortion should only be a right for the first trimester and liberals are dumb.

You’re welcome.

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