Hey all. Here is a tightened version of a blog post I did on my work as a Planned Parenthood Escort. My next post will be a follow up, but as a teaser, Ms Brown lost on her initial injunction. I sent this in one of my internship applications, so if Turnitin.com find it, feelingelephants is Jessica’s blog!
Here it is! It’s written in the form of a letter to the editor.
I would like to comment on the recent article entitled “Choice Words” (Pittsburgh City Paper, December 27th 2007) about Ms Brown’s lawsuit claiming the Pittsburgh Bubble Zone law, designed to protect patients of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania and other clinics which provide abortion services, violates her First Amendment rights to Free Speech and Exercise. While I enjoyed the article, I feel there are a number of legal points they failed to bring up. As an Escort for the targeted Planned Parenthood and an Aluma of the Carnegie Mellon’s 1st Amendment Law class, I feel I have an insight into the issues which Ms Brown brings up.
A Bubble Zone is an area where protesting is restricted by an city ordinance. At the Planned Parenthood clinic where I volunteer, the Bubble Zone has two aspects:
1. Protesters cannot stand within a 15 feet of the clinic door, as marked out by a semi-circle painted by the city. Since the clinic entrance is on an open city street this could theoretically get awkward if the protesters weren’t easy to recognize. As an Escort, I have never seen a non-protester have trouble walking through the marked semi-circle. Protesters are easy to recognize because they are carrying literature and disturbing signs.
2. There is a 100 foot area where advocates of any viewpoint must respond to requests to back up by moving back 8 feet from the person who asked. In Escort training I was taught that all kinds of language could serve to ask a protester to move away, but the most common is probably “get away from me!”.
This statute would be illegal under 1st Amendment precedent as I understand it if it banned only protesters against the clinic. However in Pittsburgh no one is allowed to remain within 8 feet of someone who has asked them to back off within the Bubble Zone. In 1st Amendment law this is called a “content-neutral” statute.
As an Escort I could, but don’t, ask protesters to move away from me. If they’re focused on me, maybe some people will get into the clinic without being hassled. Escorts never engage and never ask for attention other than by standing in front of the clinic in our Planned Parenthood jerseys but it is always nice to see people get into the clinic because the protesters weren’t paying attention. In fact on my last weekend, every single couple got in without needing our help. That Saturday we got more “good job”s, “thank you”s and even an “I love you guys!” than fingers and sermons from the random Pittsburgh residents who passed us on their way downtown.
On the First Amendment implications of the 15 foot painted semi-circle where protesters cannot go, I know from personal experience it is easy to discern the messages of the protesters standing as far away from them as possible in the 15 foot buffer zone. Though I am far from an expert, I remember no First Amendment precedent which requires privately run organizations to allow all speech inside of their facilities. In fact, the distinction between a “restricted forum” and a “public forum” seems to imply that, unless specifically designed as such, most spaces are not open to all messages and forms of discussion. Also, would the clinic be required to leave its doors open on 20 degree mornings if they were required to make sure the protesters’ speech could be heard by all?
On the 8 foot requestable personal space bubble within 100 feet of the clinic, I believe that protesters are prevented from a method of distributing their speech rather than the act of speech itself by the 8 foot personal space bubble. The method which I assume Ms Brown is wishing to engage in is commonly called Sidewalk Counseling, where a protester walks very close to a patient and pressures them in a low and sincere voice. It is this sense of private counsel which Ms Brown and her fellow protesters lose if they are asked to move back, not the ability to convey their messages.
The only other possibility is that Ms Brown is hoping to physically intimidate a patient and her partner as they try to enter the clinic. Protesters sometimes ring the 15 foot circle, forming a seemingly impassable wall of yelling people and ugly signs, though they are legally banned from forming “human chains”. However physical intimidation is an action, not speech and therefore is not automatically protected by the First Amendment or any aspect of the United States Constitution.
Anecdotal evidence is also damning to Ms Brown’s claims. In my limited time at Planned Parenthood I have never heard or seen anyone invoke the 8 foot rule. I have seen protesters squeeze between a woman and her companion to try and separate them and I have seen protesters specifically set down outside of the 100 foot Bubble Zone to display their signs. I have heard protesters orate from the full 15 feet away and I could hear them clearly. I could also hear them saying the rosary quietly.
One protester chooses to deliver his speech in the form of a 12 inch wooden crucified fetus pendant. I believe its bearer’s message may be most effective when viewed from within 8 feet; however the size of a sign (or in Ms Brown’s case the volume of speech) is the speaker’s choice, and if the speaker makes an ineffective choice, the Constitution does not required the speaker’s intended audience to step closer or listen harder.
I see no First Amendment support for Ms Brown’s claim. I absolutely believe in the protesters’ right to share their message; however I also believe that people have a right to access medical care without intimidation: this is why I Escort. Ms Brown’s First Amendment claim is erroneous because she is mistaking a manner of speech restriction for a speech restriction. The statutes is content neutral and is written in such a way as to balance the right to Privacy of the patients with the First Amendment rights of the protesters. Thankfully for the patients of Planned Parenthood, the Constitution does not compel them to listen to Ms Brown or anyone else.
“In addition, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed the Abortion Control Act, 18 PA.
CONS. STAT. § 3201, et seq. (1989), which provides the statutory framework governing abortion in the Commonwealth. The Act ensures that all women, especially minors, receive information about 24 the risks, consequences, and alternatives to abortion to ensure that the patients give an informed consent to the procedure. 18 PA. CONS. STAT. § 3205 (1989); In Re L.D.F., 820 A.2d 714, 716 (Pa. Super. 2003). In fact, physicians are required to provide all women with access to state produced materials, which offer information on alternatives to abortion. 18 PA. CONS. STAT. § 3205(2)(i); In Re L.D.F., 820 A.2d at 716. Physicians must also inform their patients about medical assistance benefits that may be available and that the father of the unborn child is “liable to assist in the support of [the] child,” even if he has offered to pay for the abortion. 18 PA. CONS. STAT. § 3205(a)(2)(ii),(iii). With this in mind, the Court recognizes that the women Brown seeks to counsel are required by law to receive mandated information about abortion and its alternatives from their physicians upon becoming a patient.” Opinion on Mary Katheryn Brown v City of Pittsburgh et all, 2:06-cv-00393-NBF
“patient and pressures them in a low and sincere voice. ”
Since when is it pressure to tell someone a true and compelling account of the realities of abortion in a way that the escorts never seem to?
You are so blinded by your hatred of life, your own womanhood, God, men and who knows what else that you think that abortion is best in most circumstances.
My wife and I had our abortion in Nashville Tennessee in the old City Hospital which is now closed and about to be turned into condos. When my wife changed her mind and attempted to get up from the hospital bed, they strapped her down and forced as gas mask on her face and performed the abortion anyway. They, like I would guess you do, thought that abortion was always best once someone came to the clinic.
Unfortunately there were no pro-lifers when we were there – and honestly, we wanted someone to talk us out of it.
Many of the couples going to PP feel trapped they don’t want the abortion but they’re afraid to face their family. You help them do something they almost always regret.
You call murder virtue – look up accounts on the internet and read how many women write about how much they loved their abortions and how many describe it as something that made their life worthless – how nothing mattered after their abortions.
It’s too bad that choice is the last thing that “Pro-Choice” people ever seem to really want.
We make our position plain – we are “Pro-Life” but you “Pro-Choicers” are “Pro-Abortion” who’s the one using pressure – PP and Margaret Sanger were experts of propaganda. Hitler would have been proud.
Hello Mr Mahoney,
I have responded to your previous comment:
Your tone is swiftly reaching my bounds of acceptability. I have not decided whether or not to delete the above comment. As regulator of this public forum, I can decide what is and is not acceptable discourse. Ad hominem attacks are not permitted.
Ahh, the semantics argument. What is choice? I would usually argue that choice is a diversity of options that an individual can freely decide among. I have never and never will be “pro-abortion.” No one is pro-abortion. Except maybe the lethal injection crowd.
I want every person to have all the options for their medical care, regardless of their economic or social status. I want people to get all the information from both sides, but when the medical becomes political it’s important to protect people from being intimidated into disregarding reason and fact. If “pro-lifers” really have the facts on their side, shouldn’t they be able to speak reasonably and respectfully without upsetting a scared woman even further than she already is? How does yelling expletives or invading people’s personal space not constitute pressure? I don’t care what you’re arguing, that’s not civil discourse. The truth is usually strong enough to resonate with just a whisper.
What exactly are the escorts supposed to say to these women? The real answer is that they don’t say anything about the procedure. They talk to you about the weather, the last movie you saw, not the risks of anesthesia. They aren’t even allowed to touch the women or couples they walk with.
If you have read anything else that Jessica has written, you would note how much she loves life and how proud she is of being a woman. I can’t speak to her personal relationship with God or men, but I really don’t see what that has to do with anything.
The reality is that no-one except the couple gets to decide whether a couple regrets their choice or not, because it is their private choice, their private dilemma. I have never known anyone who got an abortion without serious agonizing with or without the shouting and graphic images of pro-life protestors. It is incredibly condescending not to mention illogical to base your understanding of most couples’ wishes about their reproductive health on anecdotal evidence from the internet.
I would also suggest, Mr. Mahoney, that you have broken Godwin’s Law, and as such, the rules of the internet say you lose this argument. Better luck next time.
None of the people from our group ever yell at the women – we tell them about true things that happen to many women. There is no loosing an argument when you have the truth on your side. You have lost because you believe in propaganda.
I’m accused of an ad-hominem attack? I don’t see where I’ve attacked a person. Unless perhaps, you’re suggesting a straw-man which is debatable.
However, it seems the real question of choice here is that if anyone says anything you don’t like you immediately think of censoring them as you’ve threatened me with. How is this allowing people to choose if you suppress a person’s comments than for no other reason that that you do not agree.
Hi Mr Mahoney,
I am happy to find you are being more civil than in your previous posts:
In neither of the two comments your have posted in the last 20 minutes have I found a substantive claim; I cannot meaningfully respond to your general criticisms.
If anyone wants to read the reviews of the 1996 book which Mr Mahoney referred us to in the above post, check out the Google news search for it:
As Mr Mahoney has told us that his name is real, everyone should know he is a Pro-Life activist:
He (or other people acting under his handle) have been building a blogstorm recently to support his (their) views in the comments sections of other blogs. I wonder if he (or his group) have developed a space to post only their views.
I am sorry if I have not been clear about what is and is not permissible in this regulated public forum:
-Ad hominem attacks are not permitted.
-Profanity is rarely useful, but is un-prohibited.
-Opposing views discussed politely are permitted.
-Crudeness is rarely useful, but is permitted as long as it is not obscene.
Thank you for helping me find this mistake.
I will leave you with the inspirational quote (one of my favorites), which is on the first of my posts on escorting you (or your colleagues) commented on:
“the net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.” John Gilmore
Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.