NY Times backs free speech restrictions that push sidewalk counselors away from abortion facilities



On Wednesday, January 15, the Supreme Court heard the case of McCullen v. Coakley. Eleanor McCullen, a 77-year-old grandma and sidewalk counselor, is the woman behind the case that seeks to challenge a Massachusetts law banning pro-lifers from standing on public sidewalks within 35 feet of abortion facilities.

The New York Times editorial board wrote an opinion piece in favor of limiting pro-life expression. In “Abortion Rights:Uphold Buffer Zones,” they declare:

Abortion is one of the most emotionally fraught issues in American society, and public discussion often turns into an attack on the women who choose to exercise their constitutionally protected rights.

Since this is clearly an opinion piece, I’ll summarize the thoughts of the NYT writers. The writers acknowledge that the free speech rights of the pro-life protesters is the issue being debated before the Supreme Court, but they say the broader issue is “protecting women’s access to abortion, which is under assault around the country by lawmakers and protesters alike.”

They believe that the current buffer zone law is a “prime example of a state’s power to protect public safety, even if it has incidental effects on some speech.” Then, to drive their point home, they share a story of a man named John Salvi III, who killed two employees and injured five others in 1994 during a shooting spree outside two abortion facilities near Boston. In closing, they write, “The Supreme Court should uphold this sensible law and allow women to make choices free from intimidation, harassment or worse.”

The comment section for the article is closed, but thankfully I can still share my opinion on McCullen v. Coakley. First of all, I’ll state that Eleanor McCullen is the pro-lifer whom pro-choicers claim to want us all to be. What is one of the main arguments against those who oppose abortion? “You don’t care about the women!” In a previous article called, “Grandma goes to the Supreme Court,” I talk about Eleanor and her husband, who do everything from paying electricity bills to letting couples stay in their second home. There’s a reason Elanor’s fridge is full of baby pictures and her husband Joe is called “Dad” by the women they’ve helped.

Secondly, anyone who has ever stood outside an abortion facility knows that the picture the NYT paints is one-sided. John Barros, a sidewalk counselor from Florida, has personally helped over 1,000 women leave a FL abortion facility. Marilyn and Carmen, two Hispanic women from Connecticut, have seen over 2,000 women change their minds and cancel their abortion appointments. I was with Marilyn and Carmen one day and witnessed a woman turning away. There’s a great truth the NYT writers are ignorant of: not every woman who goes to get an abortion actually wants one.

Why would a woman go to a facility if she didn’t want an abortion? Should I begin with the story of the woman who called me on the phone, pleading with me to talk to her boyfriend as they were in the car heading to her abortion appointment? “Can you tell him your story of how your mom walked out of the clinic?” she asked me. This same woman was so afraid to confront her boyfriend that she went into her appointment but later told her boyfriend the doctor discovered a medical condition that wouldn’t allow her to abort that day. He responded by telling her he’d take her to another doctor to confirm it so she could get the abortion done.

Think that woman’s story is an isolated incident? If so, read John Barros’s Facebook post from January 10, 2014.

“People please Pray again… Those guys returned with that girl trying once again to force her to abort her baby…. She again chose life and they left… I begged her to come to me but they hurried her away… If any of my friends at the other clinics could please call the police if they show up and you see this car… She does not want to do this… It seems like a possible sex trade situation but I don’t know….”

Sadly, John later writes, “The girl in this video fought two grown men for two days… They brought her in and out of Orlando Womens Center… She chose life three times and was subjected to the men’s screams and pressure in the back seat of her car… They came back with her this afternoon and she never came back out…”

Let’s hear a written testimony from a woman whose mom was pressuring her to have an abortion..

When I got to the clinic there were tons of protesters outside and security escorted us inside where upon we were checked with a metal detector wand for safety. I read all of the signs outside and heard all the pleas to run to a car to safety. They said that they would take care of me if I didn’t want to do it and that my mother could do nothing about it. I was scared to death and could not run, as security had met us at the car and were ushered in. But I wanted to, and I will forever regret not doing so.

Guess things are not as black and white as the Times makes them out to be. Here’s one more story from a post-abortive woman who had an aggressive boyfriend.

Upon arrival at Tiller’s clinic on the morning of December 18 the pro-life advocates were setting up and I was horrified. I begged my baby’s father to take me home. He covered my eyes and drove on by. I blame myself for being weak. I should have left.

40 Days for Life is a movement focused on gathering people to peacefully pray in front of abortion facilities for 40 days straight. In just 13 coordinated 40 Days for Life campaigns, reports show that 8,245 women walked away from hundreds of abortion facilities and changed their minds. Eight thousand two hundred and forty-five women from just one program, and those are only the cases that have been documented.

My mother walked out of an abortion facility because a woman inside the building talked to her. Leaving that place was one of the best decisions she’s ever made. Do some women feel uncomfortable or bothered by signs, protests, and elderly Catholics praying outside an abortion facility? Yes. That’s why pro-lifers must use caution, speak kindly, practice non-violence, and demonstrate love.

Should pro-lifers be given access to get close enough to women without shouting through a bullhorn? Yes! The janitor who spoke to my mom was close enough to whisper. Her voice was more reassuring than my father’s, the abortion center counselors’, and the mentor’s – the last of whom rejected my mom when she heard she was pregnant. God only knows just how many women need to hear the loving voice of a 77-year-old grandma calling out to them in their moment of decision.

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