Pro-Life Advocates Unconstitutionally Prohibited from Offering Help to Women

Life Legal Defense Foundation Asks Supreme Court to Strike Down Discriminatory Massachusetts Ruling

This week Life Legal Defense Foundation is urging the United States Supreme Court to review a First Circuit decision which severely limits free speech of pro-life advocates. In McCullen v. Coakley, seven Massachusetts residents who engaged in pro-life counseling outside of abortion clinics sued the state for violation of their right to free speech through enactment of a “buffer zone” law. The statute created a thirty-five-foot fixed buffer zone around driveways and entrances of abortion clinics. The law prohibits everyone—except clinic patients or employees—from “entering or remaining” in the zone. The lower court upheld the buffer zone despite its prejudicial intent and application. Life Legal Defense Foundation has filed an amici curiae (friends of the court) brief arguing that this buffer zone is unconstitutional.

“This is clearly a case of viewpoint discrimination,” stated Dana Cody, Executive Director of Life Legal Defense Foundation. “Activists who make disturbances at military funerals, animal rights protests, and ‘occupy’ demonstrations are not bound by the sort of restrictions applied to peaceful pro-life witnesses who invite women to learn about abortion alternatives,” Cody explained, “It’s a true double standard and an unbelievable violation of First Amendment rights.”

Adding insult to injury, the First Circuit justified singling out pro-life speech for disfavored treatment by analogizing it to sexually oriented businesses. Just as “adult” bookstores and theatres have harmful “secondary effects” that allow cities to impose special zoning restrictions, so too, according to the First Circuit, pro-life sidewalk counseling and picketing have harmful “secondary effects” that governments can mitigate by imposing buffer zones and other restrictions. In fact, what governments most fear about pro-life speech is not any “secondary effect.”  It is that women heading into clinics are hearing the truth about abortion.

Life Legal Defense Foundation frequently defends the civil rights of pro-life advocates. The majority of the time, due to these efforts, the discriminatory charges are dismissed, the discriminatory application of the law is set right, and the pro-life advocates’ rights are vindicated. One such case is that of Rev. Walter Hoye, who joins Life Legal Defense Foundation on the brief. Pastor Hoye was convicted of violating Oakland, California’s “bubble zone” ordinance, though no patient or person seeking access to the clinic complained of his conduct. After Hoye served 30 days in jail and paid a large fine, his conviction was overturned as a result of Life Legal Defense Foundation’s efforts.

Read Life Legal Defense Foundation and Walther B. Hoye II’s Amici Curiae brief filed in the Supreme Court of the United States.