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EDITORIAL: Free speech and abortion

Massachusetts may get an education in the First Amendment

The Supreme Court saves its blockbuster decisions for the end of June, but it does more, announcing a new list of blockbuster decisions for the next term. The justices didn't disappoint Monday. They announced that they would take up a classic free-speech case that turns on the question of whether citizens have the right to express their opinions out loud.

Massachusetts law tries to protect abortion from criticism and skepticism. What was once the "Cradle of Liberty," where the Founding Fathers started the fight for fundamental American freedoms, has become a place where the state tells its citizens which words, gestures or phrases will be allowed. Five years ago, Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat and close associate of President Obama, signed a law establishing "buffer zones" where the expression of pro-life, or anti-abortion, sentiment within 35 feet of an abortion clinic is forbidden. Anti-abortion protests are, of course, still allowed — but only if out of sight.

Opponents of abortion want to be heard by pregnant women walking to an abortion. They think a peaceful and respectful vigil might reach desperate women dealing with an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy. It's a message many women have not heard, as decades of the left's mantra "Our Bodies, Our Selves" have persuaded many of them that the life they carry is no more than a clump of cells that can be conveniently cast away. Pro-life advocates know better, that an abortion often wounds more than one victim.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit legal organization, took the buffer zone battle to court, to tell women "the other side of the story," lest they make an irreversible bad decision. "The government should not be allowed to create censorship zones, where the First Amendment doesn't apply, in order to silence a particular viewpoint," says Michael DePrimo, an attorney for the alliance. "This buffer zone was designed to censor constitutionally protected speech. We are confident the Supreme Court will strike down the law that created the zone so that our clients and other peaceful pro-life citizens can once again freely share their message."

The pro-life protesters want the women facing a difficult choice to know that there are viable alternatives to ending a life and the inherent promise of a child struggling to be born. They can get help and counseling in raising a child. They can give up their babies for adoption by couples yearning to give an unwanted child a loving home; 30 percent of Americans have considered adopting a child, according to a 2007 survey conducted by Harris Interactive and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

This is the positive message the government has no business suppressing. When the Supreme Court hears the arguments in this important case next term, we hope it sends the politicians of Massachusetts a clear and emphatic reminder that the plain speech of the First Amendment means free speech is free speech, even if certain politicians don't like hearing it.

The Washington Times

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