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Pro-Life Advocates Unlawfully Silenced
in Walnut Creek
Kristin Turner | 10 February 2022
The authoritarian reach of the abortion industrial complex goes far beyond forced government funding of abortion, or committing abortions on children without parental consent. Since the early 1990s, the abortion industry has been waging a campaign against the free speech rights of pro-lifers through buffer zones. Buffer zone laws are intended to prevent specific First Amendment activity in the immediate area around an abortion facility or abortion client. This includes activities such as speaking with people entering the facility, offering them resources or literature, or standing on the sidewalk with a sign. Using a buffer zone to limit free speech is not a design flaw, it is the express purpose. A buffer zone provides the abortion industry with a very effective tool, as it allows abortion workers to silence opposition in favor of misinforming pregnant women. Preventing women considering abortion a full range of information denies them informed consent, and is a coercive tool used for financial exploitation that benefits big abortion corporations such as Planned Parenthood.
Buffer zones should worry all of us, regardless of whether one supports abortion or not. The abortion industry has a history of denying the most basic right to choose, while caustically brandishing it as their movement’s name. For example, abortion advocates have done everything in their power to suppress information about the ability to reverse a chemical abortion. Decrying it as a lie and misleading the public on conclusions from studies regarding the abortion pill reversal. However, this information hasn’t stopped Walnut Creek’s city council from considering their own buffer zone ordinance.
The city council voted unanimously to draft a buffer zone ordinance in Walnut Creek after allegations of harassment and violence from pro-life sidewalk advocates. Violence and harassment at abortion facilities from any party is absolutely unacceptable. The literal purpose of sidewalk advocacy is to counter violence. Anything less rightfully reflects poorly on those claiming to defend children facing lethal discrimination. Ironically, these allegations come from an industry whose ideology, founding, and current practices are steeped in brutality against the most helpless. This is especially true in low-income communities and regions with notable minority populations. The abortion industry understands the profit they can make from communities who are systematically denied access to alternative resources.
My own participation in many different forms of sidewalk advocacy began at the age of 18. Most who have done this outreach have had firsthand experiences being falsely accused of harassment, and even violence. In fact, myself among other advocates have been accused of violence for simply giving abortion minded women roses with a card that connects them with free and low-cost pregnancy resources in the area. Knowing this, as well as hearing the testimony of hundreds of other sidewalk advocates, it would not come as a surprise if many, if not all of these allegations were disingenuous attempts to shut down the biggest threat to the abortion industry’s business model.
Shaping laws around allegations sets a dangerous precedent for the infringement of one of our most principled rights. Citizens making petty calls to the police when upset is a staple of 21st century conniption politics characterized most often by the weaponization of the police against nonviolent resistors. This tactic has been utilized against arguably every human rights movement over the last several decades. An ordinance enacted using false allegations would not only be illegitimate, but it also allows the state to infringe on our First Amendment rights in ways that would never be seen as acceptable on any other issue outside of abortion.
In the 2014 case McCullen v. Coakley (573 US 464), the Supreme Court ruled in favor of sidewalk advocacy. Justice Roberts stated, "The buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth's asserted interests." The decision in McCullen v. Coakley even went so far as to offer alternative forms of legislation abortion providers could implement that would protect the community while ensuring everyone’s First Amendment rights. Unfortunately, in July 2020 and again in January 2021, the Supreme Court refused to hear cases from Chicago, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh Pennsylvania respectively, letting buffer zone ordinances stand. Like most aspects of abortion jurisdiction, we cannot rely on the Supreme Court to be consistent.
Dealing with buffer zone ordinances being pushed by the abortion industry can be discouraging, but there are countless ways pro-life advocates can get involved in their communities’ life-affirming efforts. Unlike big abortion businesses, most pro-life pregnancy centers are not funded by taxpayers, so we must step up to support them through volunteer work and donations. Near the Walnut Creek area there are two life-affirming pregnancy resource centers: Options Health and Birthright of Concord. Additionally, there are countless non-profits online who provide life-saving resources to pregnant women in need including Let Them Live, New Wave Feminists, Option line, and Abide Women's Health Services. Online advocacy or getting involved with local pro-life organizations such as Pro-Life San Francisco or Students for Life at Berkeley, offer numerous opportunities to spread the pro-life message and help those in need.
This is not the first, and certainly will not be the last attempt by the abortion industry to silence right to life advocates. It is of utmost importance that Bay Area activists continue our work. We cannot let discrimination in any form go unchallenged in our communities any longer.
Pro-Life San Francisco