Below you will read about two LLDF cases—a review of some of our work these past few weeks. We also encourage you to visit our website, www.lldf.org, to watch our 20-year anniversary DVD, twenty years in review since LLDF was established in 1989. Thanks for your support; we couldn’t do it without you!
The Unfortunate Legacy of Hill vs. Colorado
On December 1, LLDF filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case of a Massachusetts law severely restricting pro-life speech activity.
McCullen v. Coakley, No. 09-592, challenges the constitutionality of a 2007 law making it a crime to “enter or remain” on public sidewalks within 35 feet of abortion clinics. The law contains exceptions for clinic patients, law enforcement, persons passing through the zone, and clinic employees “acting in the scope of their employment.” Last July, the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law is constitutional, and the pro-life plaintiffs filed a petition in the Supreme Court.
LLDF filed the amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief on behalf of itself and Pastor Walter Hoye, who earlier this year was convicted of violating an Oakland ordinance limiting speech around abortion clinics.
The brief first takes issue with the law’s focusing solely on abortion clinics. The First Circuit’s justification for this narrow focus, namely that “abortion protesters are particularly aggressive and patients particularly vulnerable” at abortion clinics, is itself an unconstitutional content- and viewpoint-based distinction. As long as cities and states can single out abortion clinic locales for special speech restrictions, the brief warns, they will impose more stringent restrictions than they would dare to do if the law were more generally applied.
The brief also addresses the First Circuit’s “staggeringly counterintuitive” conclusion that the law’s exception for clinic workers is neutral and does not distinguish between different ideologies. Drawing on LLDF’s and Hoye’s experience with the Oakland law, the brief shows that clinic employees and escorts invariably use their privileged position under the law to get across their ideological message of urging women to ignore sidewalk counselors offering alternatives and instead enter the clinic for their abortions.
“Ten years has passed since the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision in Hill v. Colorado, upholding Colorado’s ‘Mother May I’ law,” says LLDF Legal Director Katie Short. “It is time for the Court to face up to the damage that Hill wrought and restore the full protection of the First Amendment to pro-life advocates.”
LLDF Intervenes to Protect Women and Their Children in Arizona
Last week a federal court ruled that two pro-life organizations could intervene in a lawsuit to defend pro-life legislation passed this year by Arizona’s legislature. The Crisis Pregnancy Centers of Greater Phoenix and the Arizona Catholic Conference are defending new pro-life laws that protect women considering abortion and medical providers who do not wish to participate in or refer for abortions. A lawsuit challenging these protective measures has been filed in federal court by Tucson Women’s Center, an abortion provider based in Arizona.
The protective measures being challenged include the requirement that abortion practitioners must provide a woman considering abortion specific information about her pregnancy in an in-person consultation at least 24 hours before performing the abortion.
Life Legal Defense Foundation’s Legal Director, Katie Short, and LLDF board member, Nikolas Nikas of Bioethics Defense Fund, joined with Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund and the Center for Arizona Policy in the motion to intervene.
A parallel state court action has been brought by Planned Parenthood Arizona seeking to permanently enjoin enforcement of the new pro-life laws. The state court allowed a friend of the court brief to be filed by LLDF attorneys and others. The Court also accepted the declarations of medical experts attesting that the challenged provisions embody sound medical practice.