The Supreme Court unanimously struck down Massachusetts’ abortion buffer zone law on Thursday, ruling in favor of anti-choice protesters who argued that being required to stay 35 feet away from clinic entrances is a violation of their freedom of speech.ThinkProgress reports that “The decision rolls back a proactive policy intended to safeguard women’s access to reproductive health care in the face of persistent harassment and intimidation from abortion opponents.
“By its very terms, the Act restricts access to ‘public way[s]‘ and ‘sidewalk[s],’ places that have traditionally been open for speech activities and that the Court has accordingly labeled ‘traditional public fora,’ ” the opinion states. “The buffer zones burden substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the Commonwealth’s asserted interests.”
“Reproductive rights advocates had been hoping the justices would uphold the policy, which they say has gone a long way to ensure that woman can safely enter abortion clinics. More than 30 pro-choice organizations filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to rule in favor of Massachusetts’ buffer zone, which was approved in response to a mass shooting at several of the state’s abortion clinics.
“According to the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which closely tracks threats and violence against abortion providers across the country, buffer zones have had a measurable impact in the areas where they’re in place. A recent survey conducted among NAF’s member organizations found that 51 percent of facilities in areas with buffer zones reported a decrease in criminal facility after the policy was enacted, and 75 percent of them said it helped improve patients’ and staff members’ ability to access the clinic. Continue reading “Anti-choice wins in court”
For hundreds of years, universities excluded women. Denied access to these institutions, they created their own. “Attempt great things,” the founder of Mount Holyoke, Mary Lyon, told her students. “Accomplish great things.” These schools, including the elite Seven Sisters — Mount Holyoke, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar and Wellesley — were where the nation’s most promising young women went to do just that.
But today, women’s colleges are at a crossroads their founders could never have foreseen, struggling to reconcile their mission with a growing societal shift on how gender itself is defined. A handful of applications from transgender women have rattled school administrators over the past year, giving rise to anxious meetings and campus demonstrations. On April 29, the Department of Education issued new guidance: Transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX.
“We are all concerned about Title IX issues,” said Mount Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella in a telephone interview. “At a women’s college, we have to have some criterion for admission,” she said. “In addition to academic excellence, it’s being a woman.”
Administrators fear that admitting students who aren’t “legally female” will cause them to lose Title IX funding. But where the leaders of these schools were once in the vanguard, championing the equal rights of women, they are now in the reactionary position of arguing that biology is destiny. This is a losing battle.
Before the recent Title IX ruling, they were already addressing the issue of transgender students on campus. But the accommodations they have made in housing and bathrooms are for a small but growing number, perhaps a hundred or so, of transgender men — students who enrolled as women and then transitioned in college. This has put the schools in the untenable position of essentially discriminating against women in favor of men. Continue reading “The new Title IX at women’s colleges”