February 12, 2008

Destination, Heaven

Justin Katz

Apparently, it presents a particularly acute public safety hazard to cause discomfort among those walking by abortion clinics, per these "legislative findings" (PDF):

  1. Preservation of public safety is a fundamental obligation of state government.
  2. Pedestrians have a right to travel peacefully on Rhode Island streets and sidewalks.
  3. Clearly defined boundaries around reproductive health care facilities will improve the ability of safety officials to protect the public

One suspects that the unwritten finding is that "regular protests are effective at persuading women not to abort their unborn children, and Planned Parenthood is losing business." Otherwise, the law (if necessary) could simply require all sidewalks (everywhere) to be passable and all businesses accessible. Instead, it declares that "no person shall knowingly enter or remain on a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health care facility within a radius of one hundred feet (100') of any portion of an entrance to, exit from, or driveway of a reproductive health care facility."

It seems to me, by the by, that the exception for "persons using the public sidewalk or street right-of-way adjacent to such a facility solely for the purpose of reaching a destination other than such facility" provides a bit of a loophole. Even if a destination of Heaven wouldn't suffice in court, one could contrive destinations (e.g., cars or posters) on either side of the fatality facility.

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I grew up around the corner from a clinic. Several neighbors of mine were stopped on the sidewalk on the way to school and shown posters of aborted fetuses, and asked "Aren't you glad your mommy didn't do this to you?"

They were under the age of 10.

Personal feelings on abortion aside, I have no love for abortion protesters. Given my thrice weekly (or greater) exposure to them for the past 20 years, I believe I've earned the right to my opinion.

Posted by: EMT at February 12, 2008 10:50 AM

I'm with EMT. The only thing worse than someone performing abortions is the 70 year old a-hole with the billboard-sized aborted fetuses attached to the back of his pickup truck on Broad Street. I've almost hit that guy with my car three times just on principle.

Posted by: Greg at February 12, 2008 11:23 AM


You're saying that displaying a sign on a truck is worse than performing an abortion?

Would you agree that the aborted baby might (if he or she were permitted to live) have a different perspective?

Posted by: brassband at February 12, 2008 11:56 AM

No, I'm saying his freedom of speech annoys the crap out of me. My lack of a vagina pretty much keeps me out of the abortion debate. I don't believe a Conservative, small government guy should support government interference in a woman's reproductive tract any more than they should tell me what drugs are legal and illegal or who I can have sex with.

Posted by: Greg at February 12, 2008 12:14 PM

Well, I understand the "small government conservative" point.

In my view, however, the primary obligation of government is the protection of innocent human life.

Since I think it is irrefutable that an unborn child is both human and alive, I would (and do) have serious problems with a government that refuses to discharge that duty.

Posted by: brassband at February 12, 2008 4:46 PM


As a small government conservative, reread the Handy/Miller bill carefully. It doesn't make it illegal just to protest in front of an abortion clinic, it makes it illegal just to stand on the sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic, upon penalty of imprisonment.

Posted by: Andrew at February 12, 2008 6:48 PM

Oh, don't get me wrong. I completely object to this bill simply on the Freedom of Expression case. The reason that freedom works is because it defends people's right to do things others don't like.

I don't like this guy showing those images on the side of the road, but I certainly acknowledge his right to be there.

I still wanna hit him with my car.

Posted by: Greg at February 12, 2008 9:35 PM

The proposed law as written is unconstitutionally broad, and as such, wouldn't have a chance of being upheld if it were to pass.

Fortunately, my conjecture is unlikely to be tested, as there are enough pro-life Democrats in addition to most of the GOP in the GA, including in the leadership, that it will be aborted in committee (sorry for the pun). The Gov would veto it in a heartbeat anyway, so it'd need at least 3/5ths in both Houses, not just a simple majority.

I'm prepared to be corrected, but is anyone aware of even a single incident of violence which may have occurred outside of a Rhode Island abortion clinic (of course, we know what kind of violence happens on the inside)? Being made to feel uncomfortable or having your sensibilities offended isn't violence. The intended purpose of the law -- whether or not they like to admit it -- is to limit or curtail free speech rights in a public venue, by treating abortion clinics as different from other for-profit business, not supposedly to "protect" anyone.

PS I can't help but thinking of the "outrage" that liberals, lefties, and loons would have felt had a 100 foot protective buffer been applied to the sidewalk outside the Federal Courthouse in Providence earlier today.

Posted by: Will at February 12, 2008 10:49 PM

Back in the 1980s there was a fellow in RI who was openly threatening to attack doctors who perform abortions. I don't think he ever actually assaulted anyone, but he was quite extreme and made very alarming threats.

Don't remember his name . . . maybe someone else will.

Posted by: brassband at February 12, 2008 11:34 PM
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