Balancing Constitutional Rights: Free Speech vs. Access to Healthcare


  • Amanda Schaller


Violence against reproductive health clinics began in 1977 and continues to intensify
with increasingly polarizing rhetoric surrounding the abortion debate and controversial legal
decisions. Anti-abortion activists who target abortion clinics both increase the stress associated
with receiving an abortion and threaten patients’ access to essential medical services. Physicians
at these clinics also endure harassment and hatred in the forms of hate mail, stalking, picketing at
their homes, and even targeted shootings. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act
and the addition of buffer zones and other subsequent laws aim to protect clinic employees and
patients, yet opponents adamantly argue that these laws are unconstitutional by allegedly violating
the First Amendment right to free speech. This case examines the constitutionality of FACE
through legal decisions about free speech related to targeted attacks on abortion clinics? as well
as the role of language in the strategic intimidation of clinics? and considers the dilemma of
weighing the guaranteed rights of free speech and safe, legal abortions.


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