On Thursday, a pro-life counselor testified at the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, detailing her role as a sidewalk counselor, sharing profound and moving stories about her work helping pregnant women.
Eleanor McCullen spoke to the committee, and described her efforts to tell women the options they have other than abortion.
She explained, “I have dedicated my life in service to empowering women as a sidewalk counselor. I was also the lead plaintiff in an important free speech case, McCullen Vs. Coakley.”
“So many women I’ve met believe that their only choice is to end the life of their baby. It is in that moment of isolation and fear that I have the privilege of offering a different choice, one that empowers and encourages the woman to know she is fully capable of becoming a mom and pursuing a job, and going to school, and having a successful and happy life,” she said.
“It’s a powerful moment when a woman looks at me and our eyes connect and she stops to talk. It’s in that moment I promise her she will never walk her journey alone,” she added.
She said that she tells them, “I will stand with you throughout the nine months and beyond. I will hold your hand.”
“I’m able to provide the mothers whatever resources they might need in that moment, including medical care, financial support, of course they come to our house, of course baby clothes and bassinets. I’ve had many, many, many, many baby showers,” she added, noting that they have been able to financially help mothers go back to school.
“And I just stick with the mothers and their families for as long as they need my help … and being able to watch the children grow up, children who wouldn’t be here had the mother not stopped to talk to me. This is an incredible privilege,” she said.
She explained how she knows the pain of being unable to serve women when the government attempts to step in and prohibit free speech.
She discussed a 2007 Massachusetts law that created a “buffer zone” around abortion facilities prohibiting pro-life speakers from coming within a certain distance of the facility. McCullen challenged the legislation in a lawsuit. She said the entire reason she challenged the law was because she didn’t want to shout from a distance or appear as if she didn’t have compassion.
She described how Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote an amicus brief as an attorney in support of Massachusetts’ previous buffer zone law enacted in 2000.
In 2014, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Massachusetts law violated the First Amendment.
McCullen went on to tell a story about a woman who recently called her after finding her card in a baby scrapbook for her daughter, who is now eighteen years old and heading to college. The woman thanked McCullen for being there to talk to her, saying that her daughter is “the joy of our life.”
McCullen pressed Judge Jackson to uphold all Americans’ First Amendment freedoms if confirmed.
As The Daily Wire reported, while she was a lawyer, Jackson wrote an amicus brief in defense of a Massachusetts law that controlled actions within a certain distance of “reproductive health care” centers.
According to the brief:
The Massachusetts Act, however, regulates conduct only within eighteen feet of a “reproductive health care facility.”
Within that narrow zone, the Act makes it unlawful to “knowingly approach” within six feet of another person, without that person’s consent, “for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill to, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education or counseling with such other person…”
The amicus brief also stated:
Contrary to the district court’s implication, the Act grew out of a sustained legislative effort to balance the free speech rights of abortion protesters against patients’ and providers’ right of access. The Legislature’s solution, developed by a working committee comprised of legislators with differing views on the issue, was a compromise: a statute that permits speakers on all sides of the abortion debate to voice their views about reproductive health services openly and vigorously, so long as, within an eighteen-foot radius of clinic entrances and driveways, such speakers do not approach within six feet of unconsenting individuals. This “floating bubble” legislation has the advantage of protecting the interests of everyone involved in the abortion debate: it allows free and open communication while at the same time enabling patients and staff members to proceed into the clinic unhindered.