The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Massachusetts buffer zone law violates the First Amendment; the justices were unanimous in the ruling. In case you weren’t up to speed on the case, here are the basics: Fourteen years ago, the high court upheld a Colorado law that created an 8-foot “bubble zone” around patients entering or exiting clinics. But Massachusetts’ buffer zone law prohibited demonstrators from standing within 35 feet of the facility, a length the justices seemed dubious of from the start. Walking that length — the size of a school bus — takes approximately seven seconds.
A lot can happen in those seven seconds. A lot can happen when protesters are allowed to enter clinics, physically confront patients or block doors. Massachusetts passed its law in response to aggressive and dangerous conduct from protesters stationed directly outside clinics, including an incident in 1994 where a gunman opened fire at two abortion clinics, killing two people and injuring five others. In its defense of the measure, the state argued before the justices that the buffer law is not a prohibition on speech, but a practical measure to keep access to these facilities “open and clear of all but essential foot traffic, in light of more than two decades of compromised facility access and public safety.”
The share of women in the construction industry has remained shockingly low—under 3 percent—for decades, due in large part to the discrimination that blocks women from entering and staying in the field. Sexual harassment and hostility, lack of mentors, and stereotyped assumptions about women’s capabilities all contribute to the problem. Unequal access to construction jobs in turn negatively affects women’s income, as traditionally male fields pay higher wages and have a lower wage gap than those dominated by women. More must be done to reverse this trend in construction, and the growth of women’s participation in similar nontraditional fields shows that it is possible.
How bad is street harassment in America? Pretty bad, according to a report published this week by Stop Street Harassment, a Virginia-based nonprofit.
SSH commissioned market research firm GfK to run a nationwide survey of 2,040 American adults—the largest such survey ever—to learn about their experiences with street harassment. The resulting report defines street harassment as “unwanted interactions in public spaces between strangers that are motivated by a person’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, or gender expression.” The relative ubiquity of street harassment makes it difficult to quantify, author Holly Kearl explains in the report, because many people “may not even identify what happened as wrong.”
Nevertheless, the report reveals some striking data points: Of those surveyed, 65 percent of women and 25 percent of men reported experiencing street harassment at some point. Men were overwhelmingly the harassers of both women and men, and people of color and LGBT people were a lot more likely to say they’d been harassed than white or straight people were.