Mary Kathryn Brown is a pro-life nurse who provides sidewalk counseling to women who have had or are considering an abortion. For years, Ms. Brown had offered such counseling outside of three abortion facilities in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 2005, the city enacted a new ordinance targeted at sidewalk counseling activities. Under the ordinance, individuals were prohibited from speaking--or even locating--in the sidewalk area within 15 feet from any entrance to abortion facilities. Moreover, within 100 feet of clinics, individuals were required to first obtain consent to approach a person closer than eight feet away to distribute leaflets or handbills or to engage in oral protest, education, or counseling.
Represented by Alliance Defending Freedom, Ms. Brown challenged the ordinance, arguing that it violated her First Amendment right to speak. Although a lower court initially ruled against Ms. Brown, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed this decision and ruled that the ordinance was unconstitutional. The Court noted that the ordinance put a burden on free speech that was “unprecedented” and “unduly--and unconstitutionally--onerous.” “We conclude that the Ordinance burdens substantially more speech than necessary and is thus insufficiently tailored,” the opinion states. “Because we find that the Ordinance’s combination of zones is not narrowly tailored, we hold on the merits that the Ordinance is facially invalid.”
What's at stake
The right of pro-life counselors to speak with women considering an abortion.
The ability of local governments to restrict the location of pro-life speech to ineffective areas.
Our role in this case
Alliance Defending Freedom represented Ms. Brown in the defense of her right to freedom of speech free of charge.
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