The McCullen decision came out this morning (opinion here). It was a unanimous opinion stating that it is not constitutional to establish buffer zones that exclude even consensual, calm speech on public sidewalks in front of abortion clinics. (Typically, the Boston Globe commetariat are very upset about this and blame it on “right wing zealots,” as if that is an apt description of Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Bader Ginsburg.)
I’m reading the decision now and have only a few points to make before more detailed blogging later. The Supreme Court’s pair of unanimous decisions today (the other one being Noel v. NRLB) seem to be driven by a desire by both sides to give up a bit of their wins to ensure that the other side has less power when the other side is in power. The liberals on the court would not want a President Palin making such recess appointments, nor a conservative Congress outlawing labour protests outside of businesses under the rational set forth by the Commonwealth in the buffer zone case (see, AFL-CIO amicus brief).
I also think it’s hugely important that this was a consensual speech case, not a protest case. You can adequately scream at people from thirty-five feet away (more if you have a megaphone), but you can’t offer literature, solace, a place to live, or financial help. Eleanor McCullen has saved hundreds of babies by offering real, concrete help to women in a crisis pregnancy, and she is not able to do so from shouting distance.