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Flying pig moment: The 9th Circuit gets something right

Break out the flying pig graphic! Hard as it may be to believe, the 9th Circuit Court has actually made a ruling at least partially favorable to pro-lifers seeking to engage in sidewalk counseling in the city of Oakland.

In a fascinating ruling full of many twists, turns, and side discussions, the court rules that Oakland's fully admitted policy of enforcing a bubble zone ordinance against pro-lifers but not against pro-abortion clinic "escorts" is unconstitutional. The ordinance itself is facially content neutral, and hence, according to the Supreme Court Hill precedent which declared bubble zones constitutional, is constitutional.

The ordinance itself says that without being invited, you may not approach someone seeking to enter an abortion clinic within the bubble zone for purposes of counseling or educating that person, giving that person a pamphlet, etc. This apparently applies to everyone. In fact, interestingly, an earlier version of the ordinance was not content neutral and hence was facially unconstitutional, because it applied only to people seeking to dissuade women from obtaining services at an abortion clinic. Even though the facially neutral ordinance is the one now on the books, the city of Oakland freely admits that it is enforcing the law only against pro-lifers. The pro-life activist who is suing claims (understandably enough) that the "escorts" (who can approach the women immediately and within the bubble zone) are making it impossible for him, from outside the bubble zone, to convey his message to women trying to enter the clinics.

The 9th Circuit has instructed the District Court to tell the city that it must enforce the ordinance even-handedly and has encouraged the District Court, if it believes that the city will not do so, to enjoin the ordinance altogether.

This is an important ruling, because the Supreme Court has never addressed the issue of one-sided enforcement and clinic "escorts." I cannot help wondering in how many other cities such ordinances are similarly enforced. If these "escorts" also had to follow the same bubble zone rules as pro-lifers, it could be a game-changer. This is one to watch.

HT: Secondhand Smoke

Comments (8)

Good to hear.

The ordinance itself says that without being invited, you may not approach someone seeking to enter an abortion clinic within the bubble zone for purposes of counseling or educating that person, giving that person a pamphlet, etc.

Actually, this law does not apply to chickens. :)

In any case, I do not recognize the force of this law, since it is better obey God than men. Now, I may only get to violate the law once before I am hauled into jail, but that is by force arms, not force of reason or truth. These sorts of idiotic and evil laws have no other purpose than to aid and abet idiotic and evil behaviors (abortion seeking, I mean) . You see why I don't picket outside of abortion clinics? I would last two minutes before I were hauled away because of a stupid, immoral law. This whole issue just makes me steaming mad.

I have said it before and I repeat it: if supposedly reasonable law-makers are this far away from reality, then they have no business being in office. Post-modern insanity. Some opinions should not be allowed, regardless of what the "Supreme Court" says. They have been overruled by a higher Court, to whom they will have to give an account.

The Chocken

Hey, Chicken, if you can carry a pamphlet in your beak or something and dissuade a woman from having an abortion, more power to you!

More seriously, I think it's interesting that the city of Oakland is apparently rather astonished that anyone thinks its enforcement policy is unconstitutional. The ruling repeatedly mentions the fact that the city doesn't even seem to understand that it isn't applying the statute as written by applying it only to pro-lifers and not to "escorts." (This is presumably why the court envisages a possible necessity to enjoin enforcement of the statute altogether--if the city stubbornly refuses to get this.)

But I understand it completely: The alleged neutrality of bubble zone statutes has been something of a fraud from the outset. Nobody probably ever _considered_ enforcing them against "escorts." Everybody understood that pro-lifers were the target of the legislation. If this ruling is upheld, and if the city of Oakland is compelled to enforce evenhandedly, it will make these ordinances less attractive to the pro-aborts who push for them. Whether that will actually happen remains to be seen.

Does that mean I can fly too now? 'Cuz I think I've seen about everything...

The Elephant

Dunno, Elephant. You'd have to try it and see, I suppose.

By the way, I think Alito wrote an excellent dissent in Snyder v. Phelps, but as it happens, the 9th circuit quotes Snyder v. Phelps in this particular ruling as upholding people's right to say offensive things in public. I don't think this is actually necessary, because a) there is nothing offensive about what the pro-lifers are trying to say to the women, and b) the Hill precedent proceeds on the assumption that pro-life speech at abortion clinics is "public speech" and hence protected even if found offensive (that is, protected outside of the bubble zone!). The citation of Snyder v. Phelps is just extra; there are plenty of other precedents that also have the same effect. But I thought it might be a case of some small measure of good coming from evil, as it were.

Some help me out. I haven't read the rulings on bubble zones. What possible justification can they give for making a zone where the truth cannot he heard?

I haven't read Hill right through, either. My recollection is that it had _something_ to do with intimidation. Which is stupid. Because intimidation can be outlawed direct without bubble zones.

So, basically, they are saying that one has a right to only know what one considers is the truth, without any possible challenge? Don't they lock people away for that type of delusional thinking?

Oh, people feel intimidated, boo hoo. The truth is a knife to those who will not listen. Look, if the person getting an abortion cannot rationally defend their position, then, to my mind, they are irrational and need protection. If I try to stop an hallucinating individual from stepping in front of a train, am I not permitted to on the grounds that it might intimidate them? Anyone who decides to kill another is mentally ill, no matter how one decides to define away the personhood of the other.

By this idiotic ruling, mental health workers should not be allowed to approach their patients, especially with needles, because it might be intimidating. So what if they want to think that they are a grapefruit.

Illogical makers of illogical laws! Defining a fetus as a non-human is like defining the mother as a piece of lint. Neither definition is entitled to a bubble. Who, seriously, think that this bubble law should be enforced? If they do, they are clinically insane, as far as I can tell. That includes police. They are nothing more than puppets of a bizzare Milgram experiment. If someone won't hear the truth, they are not entitled to the protection of law, since the law must be founded, first and foremost, on the truth.

Stupid Postmodern laws.

The Chicken

What possible justification can they give for making a zone where the truth cannot he heard?

The Masked Chicken

Public safety. You see, MC, the truth gives feminist females the vapors. When they faint their collapsed bodies create a potential traffic hazard or sidewalk obstacle that could injure pedestrians.

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