Saturday, June 28, 2014

Contrasting the Abortion Buffer Zone Decisions: McCullen, Hill, and Madsen

The US Supreme Court has issued three decisions on abortion buffer zones: 

McCullen v. Coakley 573 US ___(Roberts, J.) (2014) unanimous court strikes down MA abortion buffer zone

Hill v. Colorado, 530 US 703  (2000) (Stevens, J.) 6-3 upholds CO abortion buffer zone law

Madsen v. Women’s Health Center, 512 US 753 (1994) (Rehnquist J.) upholds FLA abortion buffer zone


As legislators consider other possible options, it might be helpful to compare and contrast the factual differences:

1.  Distance:  100 ft (8 ft. no approach person) Hill / 35 ft McCullen / 36 ft. Madsen

2.  Place:  Health care facility Hill v. Reproductive health care facility McCullen v. clinic Madsen

3.  Legislature v. Judiciary:   Injunction (Madsen) v. Statute (Hill & McCullen)

4.  Prophylactic: imposing additional safeguards to prevent future violations of law (All)

5.  Prior illegal conduct: Madsen & Hill.  Not McCullen.

6.  The most empathetic party:

            Hill: "The unwilling listener's interest in avoiding unwanted communication has been repeatedly identified in our cases."

            Madsen: The patients and employees subjected to assaults and intimidation, and also the political speech rights of the protestors

            McCullen: The caring, godly, helpful counselor.

7.  Content neutral:  All

8.  Where: Public place or sidewalk McCullen v. Public way or sidewalk area Hill v. public right-of-way  Madsen

9.   “Sidewalk counseling”:  Offensive speech Hill v.  personal, caring, consensual conversation McCullen

10.  Less restrictive alternatives tried:  None.  McCullen v. Prior statute Hill v. narrower injunction Madsen.

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