Even pro-choice WaPo columnist can’t stomach ‘beyond the pale’ harassment of Justices

Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus stunned conservatives on Friday with a piece that condemned the ongoing harassment of Supreme Court justices — especially at their homes — and called out the hypocrisy of abortion advocates who are horrified when abortion doctors are targets of harassment but are fine with targeting the justices who overturned Roe v. Wade.

Marcus makes no bones about her stand on abortion rights.

“I’m heartsick — I’m furious — over the conservative majority’s brute force move to do away with a half-century of reproductive freedom and precedent,” Marcus wrote. “My sympathies are with the protesters. And I’m steadfast in my support for free speech rights; my job and my country depend on robust support for the First Amendment.”

But, she said, “the pickets at justices’ homes — they’ve primarily targeted Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh — are beyond the pale.”

“As I’ve written before,” Marcus wrote, “they’re unnecessary; protesters can make their views amply known at the court itself. They are, if anything, counterproductive.”

“Maybe making justices’ lives miserable will make people feel better,” she said, “but it won’t accomplish anything beyond that.”


Marcus cited a 1988 opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in a case that called constitutional a Wisconsin suburb’s ordinance that banned “targeted picketing” outside residents’ homes.

“The home is different,” O’Connor wrote. “A special benefit of the privacy all citizens enjoy within their own walls, which the State may legislate to protect, is an ability to avoid intrusions.”

Today, said Marcus, the issue of residential picketing has revisited the Court — this time, “on a more personal basis.”

The WaPo editor noted the “certain irony” of the events surrounding O’Connor’s opinion.

“Then, the justices were grappling with the question of protesters gathering outside the home of a doctor who performed abortions — carrying signs, shouting slogans and warning children to stay away from the ‘baby killer,'” she wrote. “Now, the tables have turned.”

“The picketers are protesting the court’s decision to eliminate constitutional protection for abortion,” she continued. “And their intended targets are the homes of the justices themselves, o the leafy streets of Chevy Chase, Md., and in the suburbs of Virginia.”

Marcus pointed to a letter written this month by Supreme Court Marshal Gail A. Curley to the Maryland and Virginia governors and local executives “asking that they enforce existing prohibitions against residential picketing.”

One of the letters went to Maryland’s Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and claimed, “This is exactly the kind of conduct that Maryland and Montgomery County laws prohibit.”

In public comments on Wednesday that happened to receive a lot of publicity, Elrich essentially called Curley’s letter a publicity stunt.

“It’s not about security when you get a message from the press office about security,” he quipped.

“I think all you got to do is look at Putin’s Russia, and get an idea of where you don’t want to go,” he continued. “This idea where people can gather together and if you gather together, you’re gonna be arrested. That’s not happening here.”

In response, Marcus stated, “count me in with Curley — and O’Connor — over Erlich.”

“Justices, and their families, deserve as much protection from bombardment within their own homes as abortion doctors do,” she said.

Ultimately, Marcus said, it comes down to “where we are as a community and how we want to behave as fellow citizens.”

“Those who share my pro-choice views recoiled at protests targeting abortion providers and clinic employees at their homes, and they were not reluctant to connect those actions to clinic bombings or murders of physicians,” she continued.

“It should be possible to find ways to express justified outrage at the conservative justices without terrorizing them and their families,” Marcus concluded. “Can we not at least manage that?”



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