Friday 4 July 2014

MCCULLEN v. COAKLEY - Rights of Pro-lIfe Protestors

In the case of McCullen v. Coakley 26 June 2014 USSC the US Supreme Court had to grapple with the contentious issue of the rights of Pro-life counsellors and protestors in the vicinity of Abortion Clinics.

Massachusetts had passed a law which made it a crime to knowingly stand on a “public way or sidewalk” within 35 feet of an entrance or driveway to any “reproductive health care facility,” defined as “a place, other than within or upon the grounds of a hospital, where abortions are offered or performed.” The Act exempted from this prohibition employees or agents of such facility acting within the scope of their employment.”

The Court held that this law was a breach of the free speech rights set out in the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution and a part of the judgment is worth repeating since it goes to the heart of the concept of free speech a concept that so many agree with in theory but disagree with in practice when it comes to the expression of views with which they disagree

"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. With respect to other means of communication, 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. There, a listener often encounters speech he might otherwise tune out. In light of the First Amendment’s purpose “to pre­serve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail,” FCC v. League of Women Voters of Cal., 468 U. S. 364, 377 (1984) (internal quotation marks omitted), this aspect of traditional public fora is a virtue, not a vice"

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