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Abortion Protests

Stuart Buck of The Buck Stops Here, has file a cert. petition challenging a restriction on anti-abortion speech, which is available here.  The Question Presented is:

Whether a speech-restrictive no-approach “buffer zone” law violates the First Amendment where, unlike the statute sustained in Hill v. Colorado, 530 U.S. 703 (2000), it (i) bars speech-related “approaches” only outside free-standing abortion clinics, rather than outside all health-care facilities, and thus is not content-neutral; and (ii) expressly exempts unconsented, speech-related “approaches” by clinic employees or agents, and thus is not viewpoint-neutral.

In Hill v. Colorado, the Court upheld a Colorado law that prohibited leafletters from coming closer than 8-feet to any person approaching any health-care facility.  Although everyone knew that the law was enacted to prevent abortion protesters from showing would-be abortion patients pictures of aborted fetuses, the Court closed its eyes and pretented it was a merely a content-neutral time, place, and matter restriction. 

Just as the state can require you to keep the volume down while performing a concert in a public forum, Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781 (1989), so too can it require you to maintain a reasonable distance from someone seeking medical treatment.  In Hill, the Court was able to analogize Colorado's restrictions to those in Ward because everyone was presented from coming within 8-feet of all health care facilities.  Had New York, in Ward, allowed political groups to turn the volume up while requiring other groups to turn the volume down, the law would have been invalid, since it singled out one type of speech for favored treatment.  (Re: You can hold loud political rallies, but not loud book fairs).

Here is appears that only anti-abortion speech receives disfavored treatment.  The challenged law reads:

No person shall knowingly approach another person or occupied motor vehicle *** 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 in the public way or sidewalk area within a radius of 18 feet from any entrance door or driveway to a reproductive health care facility...

This law only targets speech directed at persons entering a "reproductive health care facility."  More so than in Hill, the law's purpose of restricting anti-abortion speech is clear.

(Hat tip: SCOTUSBlog)

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