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Won U.S. Supreme Court

Schenck v. Pro-Choice Network of Western New York

"Floating buffer zones” created by a federal district court prevented people from sharing their beliefs about life, violating the First Amendment.

As this year’s March for Life approaches, there is a renewed sense of optimism in the hearts of pro-life advocates across the nation.

Summary

In New York, protestors were gathering outside abortion facilities in large numbers, sometimes preventing people from entering. The Pro-Choice Network of Western New York filed a lawsuit asking for a temporary restraining order, which a federal district court granted.

One month later, after protests continued, the same court also issued an injunction creating two 15-foot buffer zones. The first extended around the entrances of abortion facilities (“fixed buffer zones”) while allowing for two sidewalk counselors to enter. The second (“floating buffer zones”) prevented demonstrations “within fifteen feet of any person or vehicle seeking access to or leaving such facilities.”

With funding from Alliance Defending Freedom, Rev. Paul Schenck and others appealed the injunction to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court upheld the “fixed” 15-foot buffer zones around the entrances of abortion facilities, but it ruled that the “floating buffer zones” violated the First Amendment by restricting speech more than was necessary to ensure people could access the facilities.

Case Documents

Court
Title
Date
U.S. Supreme Court
2/19/1997