Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Neighbors file suit to stop clinic’s move

This story, about the neighborhood lawsuit opposing the placement of a women's health clinic that performs abortions at 111 Harvard Street, appeared in the Boston Globe on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2009.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cop crashes Chinese cookery

Boston Globe photo

According to the Boston Globe, an unmarked police car crashed into the King Fung Garden II restaurant about 1:30 last night while chasing, at high speed, a "suspicious" vehicle. Clearly, that's not the only thing suspicious about this incident, and it bears following.

The five-sentence story has a "Globe staff" byline, which means the paper has not yet done any original reporting. (It credits Ch. 7 a news report.) Among the 27 comments (!), aside from the premature police-bashing, is some nice info about the couple that owns the place. One commentator ("Former Brookline resident") points out that the headline misleads readers because it doesn't ID the car as a cop car; but that, I think, is nothing nefarious, just due to normal time pressures to get the story posted. Globe & TAB headline writers should have a field day with this story.

Stay tuned.

—BMR, RhyNewService

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Rights and responsibilities in the Harvard St. abortion clinic debate

RhyNewService photo
This commentary also appeared in the Brookline TAB on May 14, 2009.

by Brett M. Rhyne

Much of the debate surrounding a proposed relocation to Harvard Street of a women’s health clinic that performs abortions has been framed in terms of rights: neighbors’ rights, women’s rights, doctors’ rights, opponents’ rights. Only the Zoning Board of Appeals has addressed the matter in strictly regulatory terms, as is appropriate to its mandate.

Yet this discussion of legal rights is important, because it is the groundwork upon which zoning bylaws are created. As a member of a grass roots coalition of residents and business owners who neighbor the proposed site, and have argued against the relocation, I’d like to look at some of the rights that have been invoked and the equally important, yet sadly neglected, responsibilities that are coincident with those rights.

As its immediate neighbors, those of us living and working nearest to 111 Harvard Street will be most affected by the activity surrounding the clinic. The pro-life pickets cause pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers to change their movements, creating dangerous situations and infringing on everyone’s right to liberty. The protesters’ grotesque signage of aborted fetuses, and one picket’s gruesome Grim Reaper costume, as well as the pro-lifers’ tactic of mailing similarly disturbing postcards to neighbors’ homes, all contribute to terrifying our children, lowering our property values and hurting our businesses, thus infringing on our right to the pursuit of happiness.

We recognize that our defense of these rights does not negate our responsibility to the Brookline community or the clinic’s owner, Dr. Delli-Bovi, especially since we ourselves support the practice of abortion, a woman’s right to reproductive freedom and access to healthcare.

The pro-lifers are exercising their rights to speak and assemble freely, and are doing so within the letter of the law. They are not honoring the spirit of the law, though, because they fail to take responsibility for the effects on the community of their presence and actions.

In the same way, Dr. Delli-Bovi is exercising her right to perform abortions but not taking responsibility for how relocating her clinic to Harvard Street infringes on the rights of others. She needs to acknowledge that the clinic and its pro-life opponents are inseparable, and reconsider her decision to move to this location.

Many clinic proponents base their support on defending a woman’s reproductive rights. Some of them maintain that if the board does not allow the clinic to relocate, it is essentially practicing gender discrimination. In other words, denying the performing of abortions is sexist.

I agree. A ‘right’ is an abstract concept, and only exists in practice. In this case, if the practice of abortion is not allowed—for whatever reason, however sensible—then women will be denied their rights.

The rights of medical practitioners to perform abortions and those of women to have access to abortion have been under attack since they were first established. Opponents have consistently tried to limit or rescind these rights, and it’s taken a constant effort on the part of proponents to defend abortion rights. Opponents of abortion have tried many tactics, from legal challenges to street protests.

In the face of the demagoguery we’re currently seeing, proponents of the clinic’s relocation need to do more than just speak in front of the Zoning Board of Appeals. Brookliners who support a woman’s right to choose must now stand up against the pro-life pickets. If the relocation is approved, the protesters will not go away; their effects will be the same, and community member’s rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness will be impaired. Pro-choice advocates will have successfully defended one set of rights by sacrificing another.

What actions might clinic proponents take to defend everyone’s rights in this context? A counter-protest suggests itself. Pro-choice advocates needn’t carry signs, chant or do anything other than stand in silent support of the clinic. In order to send a clear message that Brookline champions women’s rights and will mobilize in their defense, pro-choice demonstrations need to be convincingly large (a couple of hundred people) and predictably regular (daily). Keep it up long enough and the pro-lifers might eventually get discouraged and go away.

If this sounds impossible to organize and maintain, that’s because it probably would be. A better solution is to locate the clinic to a site where pickets will not have such an adverse effect on the surrounding area.

Our ultimate responsibility is to ensure that in exercising any right, we don’t infringe upon the rights of others. So I encourage the Zoning Board of Appeals to rule against relocation to 111 Harvard Street, and I encourage the town—its officials and its citizenry—to do everything possible to ensure that the clinic remain, somewhere, in Brookline.