A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds

Would it be unfair to say that David Farrar considers the mental anguish anti-abortion protestors cause to women about to undergo a termination procedure matters less than the annoyance a voter may feel at having to refuse to accept a political party leaflet? Maybe it would, so read on and decide for yourself ... .

So it's Friday afternoon, deep into intellectual garbage time, and it's been a wee while since I've taken a gratuitous pot-shot at one of my fellow denizens of the blogosphere. What better reasons do I then need for writing the following?

We begin with Tuesday's NZ Herald, in which was this little story

Green MP Jan Logie says it is worth debating whether New Zealand should introduce a no-protest zone around abortion clinics, similar to those enforced in some Australian states.


Logie said the Green Party had no plans for a member's bill on the issue but another speaker had raised the Australian example. There were different views expressed on it and she believed a broader discussion was needed.

"I do think there's is a genuine issue around the impact of those protests directly targeting women and making their lives worse.

Unfortunately for Ms Logie, David Farrar says no

I’m pro-choice. I think those who do protest outside abortion clinics are misguided and insensitive and do indeed make what can be a traumatic experience even worse for those involved. I wish they didn’t protest, just as I wish the Westboro Church didn’t picket funerals. It reflects badly on them.

But they have a right to protest, and I don’t think no-protest zones are a good idea.

Thus, as much as David Farrar regrets any mental anguish caused to women having wade through a host of placard waving activists to enter a health facility and undergo a (possibly) emotionally wrenching and intimate medical procedure, some things are just more important. Their pain is the true cost of democracy. We may regret that such costs must be paid, but steely eyed and firm of purpose, we cannot deviate from our true principles to ease it even one little bit.

Except. Back at the end of July, the NZ Herald ran this story outlining what Justice Minister Amy Adams planned to do in response to Parliament's Justice and Electoral Committee's report into the 2014 election:

Adams also expected to change the law before 2017 to cater for the increasing trend of advance voting in 2014 and the Northland byelection after that.

That would result in a ban on election campaigning or campaign advertising around advance voting booths, as well as providing more booths and allowing votes to be counted earlier.

This "ban on election campaigning or campaign advertising around advance voting booths" arose out of the Justice and Electoral Committee's recommendation "that the Government prohibit campaigning and the display of campaign material within, and in the immediate vicinity of, advance voting places."

So what says our erstwhile defender of freedom of speech, with his steely eyed and determined acceptance that individual rights demand we all be prepared to pay a price to uphold their cherished status? Surely he rejects the notion of creating a "no campaigning zone" near polling places, on the basis that while he might wish such activity did not occur, voters must accept that in a free society those who desire to do so cannot be stopped? Apparently ... not.

Last election some people had to wade through placard waving activists to get into a voting booth. I think it is sensible to not have campaigning around the advance voting booths.

So now we know how true dedication to the principle of free speech works. The mental anguish caused to women outside medical clinics by individuals voicing their opposition to abortion as a practice is not sufficiently important to mandate that protestors keep a certain distance away from the entrance to such places. But the mild annoyance caused to voters at having to brush off enthusiastic political party volunteers is sufficiently important to require that electoral speech be prohibited in the vicinity of the polling place.

Such are the difficult and wrenching calls that steely eyed and determined classic liberals must be prepared to make in their defence of this overridingly important principle of freedom of speech.

(For the record, I also recommended imposing a no-campaigning "buffer zone" around polling places while voting was occurring (but I also advocated doing away with any other restrictions on campaigning on polling day). I'd also support a specific law imposing a buffer zone around the entrance to abortion providers, if there were real evidence that the protesting activities were causing significant mental distress to women and/or dissuading them from attending.)