Here’s a chance to get women the help they need to choose LIFE
Life Legal Chief Legal Officer Catherine Short filed an amicus brief today asking the Supreme Court to take up the case of Vitagliano v. County of Westchester, a case that has the potential to protect freedom of speech in front of abortion clinics all over the country. The case involves a challenge to a NY “bubble zone” law that suppresses speech on public sidewalks outside abortion mills.
We filed our brief on behalf of Life Legal client Rev. Walter Hoye, who was convicted of violating a similar bubble zone ordinance in Oakland, California back in 2010. In that case, we were able to get Rev. Hoye’s conviction overturned. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately ruled that the City of Oakland discriminated against Walter in its enforcement of the bubble zone law.
The current case started when a sidewalk counselor, Debra Vitagliano, challenged the NY bubble zone law because it prevented her from sharing resources, information, and hope with desperate women outside abortion clinics in her community. This ridiculous law makes it illegal for her to simply offer help to women on a public sidewalk.
The Constitution protects the right to freedom of speech, so how could this law possibly exist? Here’s how: in 2000 in the case Hill v. Colorado, the Supreme Court upheld a law prohibiting anyone from approaching other people within eight feet of an abortion clinic for “oral protest, education, or counseling.”
This is an egregious violation of freedom of speech – and the corrupting effect of legalized abortion on our constitutional rights. But it became a template for pro-abortion laws across the country.
Debra Vitagliano was training to become a sidewalk counselor and was excited to help women choose life for their unborn babies. Her desire was to offer women hope and tangible help because, as Debra said, “In her most vulnerable state, a pregnant woman considering abortion deserves to know that she is not alone and that becoming a mom is a precious gift. That belief is what motivated me to become a sidewalk counselor.”In June 2022, however, Westchester County passed a law prohibiting her from doing this. That law is a cookie cutter copy of the law in Hill. Debra Vitagliano sued, saying that the law violates her freedom of speech. But a federal district court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision. So Vitagliano, with help from the Becket Fund, filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court—and Life Legal is joining that petition with an amicus brief.
This is an incredible opportunity to restore protection to freedom of speech in a crucial place: on public sidewalks outside abortion clinics. But it’s going to be a hard fight. Furious about the overturning of Roe v. Wade, pro-abortion advocates are lashing out. We are going to need every bit of help we can get to win this next victory for LIFE.