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Supreme Court unanimously strikes down Massachusetts abortion buffer zone law

Ben Johnson Ben Johnson Follow Ben

Updated at 12:15 p.m. EST.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Supreme Court has unanimously struck down a Massachusetts law establishing a buffer zone around abortion facilities.

The justices' 9-0 ruling in McCullen v. Coakley reverses the First Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the law, which barred sidewalk counselors from setting foot within 35 feet of abortion facilities statewide.

The 34-page ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, said the statute went too far by forbidding pro-life advocates from engaging in free speech on “a public way or sidewalk adjacent to a reproductive health care facility.”

The buffer zone law represents an “extreme step of closing a substantial portion of a traditional public forum to all speakers,” the justices ruled. “The Commonwealth may not do that consistent with the First Amendment.”

“While we wish the decision had recognized the content-restrictions inherent in this type of law, this decision is truly a victory for courageous, compassionate sidewalk counselors in Massachusetts who have saved hundreds of lives through their quiet outreach offering help and alternatives to women,” Dana Cody, president and executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation, told LifeSiteNews.com. 

“In a brazen affront to the First Amendment, Massachusetts government officials had sought to use the threat of arrest and criminal conviction to silence those offering women life-affirming alternatives to abortion,” said Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life. “The Supreme Court rightly rejected this unlawful attempt to deny pro-life Americans their First Amendment rights.”

However in a flashpoint with three conservative justices, a majority of the justices endorsed the right of states to create buffer zones around abortion facilities as long as they are more narrowly tailored, especially if the state establishes a legal history of intimidation.

“The act is neither content nor viewpoint based and therefore need not be analyzed under strict scrutiny,” they ruled, provoking a stern response from Justices Scalia, Kennedy, and Thomas.

Pro-life forces had said the law censored their speech by allowing abortion escorts to speak freely to women but silencing anyone who would try to tell the woman of abortion's potential harms.

“The government cannot reserve its public sidewalks for Planned Parenthood, as if their message is the only one women should be allowed to hear,” said Mark Rienzi, the sidewalk counselors' attorney. “Today’s decision confirms that the First Amendment is for everyone, and that the government cannot silence peaceful speakers. That result is good news for Eleanor McCullen, and it is great news for the women she helps.”

Justice Roberts rejected the notion that buffer zone laws target only one side of the argument, saying they “burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s asserted interests” in protecting women seeking an abortion from allegedly aggressive pro-life protesters.

The bill was introduced in 2007 by Massachusetts House of Representatives. Member Martha “Marty” Walz, who is now the president of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. She claimed in a USA Today op-ed that the law is necessary to protect abortion workers from “violent, extremist anti-abortion protesters led by Operation Rescue.”

Eleanor McCullen – a 77-year-old grandmother who says she has spent more than $50,000 of her own funds trying to reach young women and protect unborn children – filed suit in January 2008 against state Attorney General Martha Coakley, who is currently running for governor of Massachusetts as a Democrat.

Obama administration Deputy Solicitor General Ian H. Gershengorn argued on behalf of the U.S. government in support of the restrictive law. But oral arguments showed every justice, including Elena Kagan, expressing skepticism about the breadth of the Massachusetts ordinance.

Justice Kennedy asked at one point, “Do you want me to write an opinion and say there’s no free speech right to quietly converse on an issue of public importance?”

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The Supreme Court previously upheld a Colorado law establishing an eight-foot floating buffer zone outside abortion facilities in 2000 by a 6-3 vote. Scalia, Kennedy and Justice Clarence Thomas dissented in the 2000 case, Hill v. Colorado, while Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer voted in favor.

Colorado, Montana, and New Hampshire have state laws mandating buffer zones about abortion offices. So do the cities of Burlington, Vermont; West Palm Beach, Florida; Portland, Maine; Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, California.

“I'm thankful for the Supreme Court doing the right thing, recognizing freedom of speech and freedom of dissent,” Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said today. “Those of us who are pro-life have constitutional guarantees embedded in the First Amendment, along with everyone else. This was a good decision, and I am cheered that it was a unanimous decision.”



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Lisa Bourne

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Trump vows to push LGBT rights, hedges on pro-marriage litmus test

Lisa Bourne

CONCORD, New Hampshire, February 8, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Does Donald Trump support the gay agenda or oppose it? On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, observers are still scratching their heads about where the GOP frontrunner actually stands.

Trump has repeatedly and consistently said he supports the natural definition of marriage, but can a President Trump be relied on to promote it resolutely and cogently? It is this question that has many marriage activists expressing concern about his increasingly likely hold on the GOP nomination.

In fact, the National Organization for Marriage has gone so far as to say that Trump has “abandoned” the pro-marriage cause.

Trump himself underscored the problem on the weekend when he told a New Hampshire television station that from the White House he would push “equality” for homosexuals even further forward.

A cable news reporter self-identifying as a lesbian asked him last Thursday after a rally in Exeter, "When President Trump is in office, can we look for more forward motion on equality for gays and lesbians?"

“Well, you can and look - again, we're going to bring people together. That's your thing, and other people have their thing,” Trump told Sue O’Connell of New England Cable News. “We have to bring all people together. And if we don't, we're not gonna have a country anymore. It's gonna be a total mess.”

Following the comments, Trump appeared Sunday on ABC’s This Week program with George Stephanopoulos and would not commit to appointing Supreme Court justices who’d overturn Obergefell, though that would be his “preference.”

STORY: ‘Anyone but Donald Trump’: Here’s his record on life, marriage, and religious liberty

“We’re going to look at judges. They’ve got to be great judges. They’ve got to be conservative judges. We’re going to see how they stand depending on what their views are. But that would be my preference,” he told Stephanopoulos. “I would prefer that they stand against, but we’ll see what happens. It depends on the judge.”

Trump’s comments follow his statements during a Fox News Sunday interview last week, when he said, “If I'm elected, I would be very strong on putting certain judges on the bench that I think maybe could change things, but they've got a long way to go.” 

“[Marriage] should be a states rights issue,” Trump continued. “I can see changes coming down the line, frankly.” 

When asked by Fox if he “might try to appoint justices to overrule the decision on same-sex marriage,” Trump replied, “I would strongly consider that, yes.”

The real estate mogul criticized the Supreme Court for the Obergefell decision imposing homosexual “marriage” on all 50 states last June, but then later in August, Trump voiced support to NBC News for banning companies from firing employees on the basis of sexual orientation. “I don't think it should be a reason” to fire workers, he said at the time on Meet the Press.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and a number influential evangelicals have endorsed Senator Ted Cruz in the race for president. The Texas senator has not only committed to appointing pro-marriage justices, but says the president and the states can rightly defy the “fundamentally illegitimate” ruling just as President Lincoln defied the Dred Scott decision.

NOM has also been highly critical of Trump, saying he has “abandoned” their cause. The organization said in its January 27 blog post just prior to the Iowa Caucus that “Donald Trump does not support a constitutional amendment to restore marriage to our laws. Worse, he has publicly abandoned the fight for marriage. When the US Supreme Court issued their illegitimate ruling redefining marriage, Trump promptly threw in the towel with these comments on MSNBC: ‘You have to go with it. The decision's been made, and that is the law of the land.’”

NOM had said the week before that Trump “has made no commitments to fight for marriage, or the rights of supporters of marriage to not be discriminated against and punished for refusing to go along with the lie that is same-sex 'marriage.'”

New Hampshire voters have been tracked as showing support for homosexual “marriage,” as a poll last February showed 52 percent of Republican NH primary voters saying opposing gay “marriage” is unacceptable.

The latest CNN/WMUR tracking poll shows that overall 33 percent of likely Republican primary voters support Trump, giving him a growing 17-point lead over the nearest GOP contender. RealClearPolitics polling average in the state puts him at 31.0 percent support, with Marco Rubio second at 14.7, John Kasich third at 13.2, and Ted Cruz fourth at 12.7.



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Greg Quinlan

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The unravelling of Chris Christie

Greg Quinlan

February 8, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- I'm a member of the clergy and for the past eight years have lobbied the powerful in Trenton, covering the administrations of both Governors Jon Corzine and Chris Christie.  I did much of my work on behalf of the New Jersey Family Policy Council, associated with Tony Perkins' Family Research Council.  I am currently the President of the Center for Garden State Families.

Those of us who are engaged in the fight to secure the right to believe, speak, and practice the Christian faith in America were all heartened by the election of a Pro-Life Governor in 2009.  Not only did Chris Christie run as an open Pro-Lifer, but he adopted a position in support of natural marriage in the course of the campaign.  And when legislative Democrats attempted to pass same-sex marriage in the lame duck session, so they could have outgoing Governor Corzine sign it into law, Chris Christie rallied opposition and stopped it.  Those were the early, hopeful days; but as Governor, Chris Christie has presented himself in an inconsistent, even scatterbrained way, often making decisions that go against earlier stated beliefs. 

One of his first decisions was to make a liberal Democrat the state's Attorney General.  Once approved by the Senate, and she was, the Attorney General could not be fired by the Governor, as was the case with other cabinet officers.  This gave a liberal Democrat enormous power and she used it to join up with liberal Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley in filing a brief against Christians in a case called Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.  Just one day after being sworn in, the newly appointed state Attorney General took the most aggressive legal posture available to defend former Governor Corzine’s one-gun-a-month handgun rationing law, moving to dismiss an NRA lawsuit to overturn the law, and later vigorously opposing the NRA’s motion for a preliminary injunction in the case.  Because of this appointment, New Jersey did not join in the lawsuits to overturn ObamaCare.

Governor Christie appointed a radical "sexologist" to run the NJ Department of Children & Families.  This appointee would later resign when it emerged that she had held the top job in an organization that had supported a study advocating the normalization of some forms of adult-child sex. 

His judicial appointments were also confusing.  While claiming to oppose same-sex marriage, Governor Christie nominated an openly gay Republican to the state Supreme Court who supported it.  Even Democrats wouldn't support this plainly unqualified appointment, and he never served.  The Governor supported the advancement of a liberal Democrat to the job of Chief Justice, while refusing to support the re-appointment of a Republican and the Court's most conservative member.  He also appointed a controversial defense attorney who had defended a number of Islamic extremists who had violated immigration law. 

In 2013, many of those in the Christian community opposed legislation that banned young people from receiving counseling and therapy to lead them away from homosexuality.  As an ex-gay myself, I could have personally attested to the benefits of such counseling, much of which is no different than what is found in contemporary twelve-step programs.  However, the Christian community opposing the ban was not afforded the opportunity to meet with the Governor.  Only the homosexual community with its pro-ban agenda was given that benefit.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

I don't blame the Governor for this, but I do blame his staff.  As President Ronald Reagan said, "personnel is policy," and  Governor Christie's choices in personnel have not advanced the policies he campaigned on, and often it was the direct opposite.   

New Jersey ended up being just the second state in the country that only allows young people to receive counseling that advocates homosexuality, but bans by law counseling that advocates heterosexuality. When he signed it into law, Governor Christie embraced the made-up "science" of the propagandists, when he cited un-specified "research" that "sexual orientation is determined at birth."  This is the so-called "gay-gene" trope that has baffled those engaged in the Science of Genetics because it has never been discovered.

As a candidate for Governor, Chris Christie talked the talk and raised the expectations of Christians in New Jersey. As Governor, and especially in his appointments, Christie undermined our confidence in his leadership. Christians should ask tough questions before extending our faith in him again.



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Center for Medical Progress lead investigator David Daleiden speaks at an event in Washington, DC, before the 2016 March for Life. Lisa Bourne / LifeSiteNews
Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

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Pro-life investigator hits back with new footage after judge blocks release of abortion sting videos

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin

SAN FRANCISCO, February 8, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) -- A new video from the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) shows two National Abortion Federation (NAF) employees saying that abortion clinics would be interested in kickbacks from profits on fetal tissue and body part sales.

The video comes three days after a San Francisco imposed an injunction sought by NAF against CMP videos that one of the abortion group's attorneys said meant that "NAF's members can sleep a little easier tonight."

CMP accused the pro-abortion organization of hiding behind the court.

According to U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick, however, NAF "made...a showing" that release of CMP videos would harm rights to privacy, freedom of association, and liberty of NAF members.

URGENT: Sign the petition to Harris County urging them to drop the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Click here.

"Critical to my decision are that the defendants agreed to injunctive relief if they breached the agreements and that, after the release of defendants’ first set of Human Capital Project videos and related information in July 2015, there has been a documented, dramatic increase in the volume and extent of threats to and harassment of NAF and its members," wrote Orrick.

Additionally, the judge found that CMP's videos “thus far have not been pieces of journalistic integrity, but misleadingly edited videos and unfounded assertions," and that nobody from the abortion industry “admitted to engaging in, agreed to engage in, or expressed interest in engaging in potentially illegal sale of fetal tissue for profit" in the CMP videos.

However, in a new video released today that is unrelated to the injunction, a NAF employee told undercover journalists that kickbacks "definitely [sound] like something some [of] our members would be really interested in," with another chiming in that money from private purchasers to abortion clinics were "a win-win" for clinics.

The undercover investigators, who had purported to be part of a biotechnology company with an interest in fetal parts, were offered the chance to be at a NAF conference. “We have an exhibit hall and then we also have the general conference. But I mean, this is a very great way to talk to our members. We have a group purchasing program through our membership,” the journalists were told. “So it seems like this would be a really great option to be able to offer our members, as well.”

This is the second ruling against CMP in recent weeks, and the second by Orrick since July. The San Francisco judge issued a restraining order against CMP related to NAF's 2014 and 2015 meetings in San Francisco and Baltimore that Friday's ruling extended.

The other recent ruling came in the form of an indictment of CMP's David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt. Merritt and Daleiden turned themselves into Houston authorities for booking and processing last week. After being released on bail, Daleiden spoke at a LifeSiteNews/Christian Defense Coalition press conference after which more than 100,000 petition signatures backing Daleiden were dropped off to the Harris County, Texas District Attorney's office.

According to Orrick, who says he reviewed the more than 500 hours of recordings from CMP, "It should be said that the majority of the recordings lack much public interest, and despite the misleading contentions of defendants, there is little that is new in the remainder of the recordings. Weighed against that public interest are NAF’s and its members’ legitimate interests in their rights to privacy, security, and association by maintaining the confidentiality of their presentations and conversations at NAF Annual Meetings. The balance is strongly in NAF’s favor.”

NAF did not respond to a request for comment about the allegations by Orrick and a NAF spokesperson that CMP's videos have caused threats and other security concerns against NAF members.



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