The City of Everett, Washington has directed police to erect metal barricades outside a Planned Parenthood abortion mill to keep pro-lifers from speaking to women entering the clinic. This is a blatantly unconstitutional violation of the pro-lifers’ right to gather and speak on a public sidewalk.
The City has never prosecuted, let alone convicted, any pro-lifers under local or state laws targeting “disruptive” activity outside abortion clinics. In short, the barricades are a solution in search of a problem.
This type of government overreach was addressed by the Supreme Court in McCullen v. Coakley, in which the Court ruled that a Massachusetts law creating a 35 foot “buffer zone” around abortion clinics was unconstitutional. The law did not meet the standard of review set forth by the Court to determine whether a fundamental right, like free speech, has been violated. Laws or policies that implicate First Amendment speech rights must further a compelling government interest and be “narrowly tailored” – namely, they must not burden more speech than is necessary to achieve the government’s interest. This is known as “strict scrutiny” and is the highest standard of judicial review.
The Everett Police Department cannot demonstrate any valid government interest for putting up the barricades and keeping pro-lifers off the sidewalk. The barricades are not narrowly tailored in that they are clearly intended to suppress all pro-life speech outside the Planned Parenthood mill. The City is diverting public resources to make sure women do not have the opportunity to change their minds and walk away with their babies – and Planned Parenthood’s profits.
The Planned Parenthood group that runs the Everett clinic kills over 19,000 babies through abortion every year. The average cost per abortion is $600, which means the group rakes in well over $11 million annually in blood money. Not surprisingly, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin is a zealous pro-abort and is endorsed by Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobbying group NARAL.
Life Legal has issued a formal demand to the City that the barricades be removed immediately and we are weighing further legal options.