'Buffer zones' should apply to all cases of free speech
In its unanimous finding that "buffer zones" around abortion clinics are unconstitutional, the Supreme Court reached the obvious conclusion. Now, that obviously must be extended to other realms where free speech routinely is restricted.
The justices invalidated a Massachusetts law that had established 35-foot buffer zones around abortion clinics, often including public sidewalks. Abortion protesters and "sidewalk counselors" who attempt to dissuade women entering the clinics from having abortions, had not been allowed within the buffer zone.
Such laws are meant to preclude harassment of women approaching the clinics. But harassment already is illegal, as is blocking an entrance to any building. And every city has laws protecting public safety during demonstrations. As long as people entering the clinic are free to walk away from protesters or "counselors," everyone's rights are protected.
Curiously, the same standards are not applied to other aspects of political free speech, particularly involving politicians. So, women approaching abortion clinics must put up with free speech, while the guys who come with their own bodyguards don't have to worry about it. Protesters routinely are herded far away from the sites of presidential appearances, and those of some other high-ranking officials, for example.
Perhaps the most egregious practice is the establishment of "free speech zones" far away from the arenas where the major parties' conventions take place.
The people who approved the First Amendment more than 220 years ago envisioned the entire United States as a free speech zone. The Supreme Court should back them up on it.