Balancing Constitutional Rights: Free Speech vs. Access to Healthcare


  • Amanda Schaller


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