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The Government Cannot Target Pro-Life Speech Because Abortion Activists Demand It

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
January 12, 2018

Abortion advocates would have you think that pro-life speech is out in 2018.

They’ve been working to pass laws like those in California and Illinois, which force pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion. Pro-life student groups have been denied recognition on campus. Pro-life doctors and nurses have been told they must participate in abortions.

But Alliance Defending Freedom is committed to defending the rights of pro-life advocates.

That’s why ADF filed an appeal today challenging a law in Pittsburgh that creates censorship zones around the facilities of abortionists, eye doctors, dentists, and any “therapeutic,” “healing,” or “health-building” treatment services. Inside of those zones, free-speech activities such as leafleting are not permitted.

This law targets the work of pro-life advocates who stand outside of abortion centers like Planned Parenthood to talk to the men and women going inside – to offer them help and hope in the face of an unplanned pregnancy. It should come as no surprise that the Pittsburgh law specifically bans pro-life speech in these zones.

As ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot has said: “The government can’t stifle free speech simply because some pro-abortion politicians or activists demand it.”

That’s why ADF is appealing a ruling by a district court that upholds Pittsburgh’s censorship zones and directly contradicts a 2014 Supreme Court ruling in McCullen v. Coakley. In that case, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down a Massachusetts “buffer zone” law – which required pro-life advocates to keep at least 35 feet away from the entrances, exits, and driveways of abortion centers.

The district court improperly applied this Supreme Court ruling, and it also improperly applied a 2016 ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. The appeals court ruled that “the [Pittsburgh] Ordinance imposes the same kind of burden on speech” as one the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in 2014, and it sent the case back to the district court.

Free speech should receive the highest protection on public sidewalks, but passing a law such as Pittsburgh’s threatens that freedom. If special interests can demand that the government censor certain viewpoints that they don’t like, where does it stop? And whose viewpoints will be targeted next?

ADF is committed to protecting free-speech rights for all. If these rights are taken away from some, that threatens them for us all.

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Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.