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ADF: “Speech-free zones” near abortion clinics and other establishments must go

ADF attorneys file suit against Pittsburgh for unconstitutional ordinance enforced against peaceful sidewalk counselor
Baby's Feet

PITTSBURGH — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh City Council, and the mayor today for its recently adopted ordinance that prohibits speech in specified zones outside of abortion clinics as well as other local businesses and establishments.

“The First Amendment shouldn’t be applied differently based on a person’s beliefs,” said ADF attorney Elizabeth Murray.  “Our client is a compassionate, professional nurse who has devoted much of her life to kindly and gently counsel women during a difficult time in life.  The ordinance violates her constitutional rights because it prohibits her from engaging in peaceful free speech as she has done for over 15 years on public property outside abortion clinics.”

The Pittsburgh City Council passed the ordinance by a 6-3 vote on Dec. 13.  It went into effect Dec. 30 after the approval of outgoing mayor Tom Murphy.  The ordinance prohibits an individual from engaging in speech in the public way or sidewalk area within 15 feet from any entrance of abortion facilities and within eight feet of any person within a radius of 100 feet from any entrance door to an abortion facility without first obtaining that person’s consent.

The ordinance also prohibits individuals from distributing leaflets and handbills, displaying a sign, and engaging in oral protest, education, and counseling in the restricted public way and sidewalk area.

ADF attorneys and local counsel Lawrence Paladin, Jr., represent sidewalk counselor and nurse Mary Kathryn Brown, who, according to the complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, has never trespassed or blocked individuals from entering or leaving abortion facilities.

“All Ms. Brown has done is compassionately offer assistance and information to women in need.  Such concern should be applauded, not prohibited,” said Murray.  "ADF intends to demonstrate that Pittsburgh’s ordinance violates the First Amendment, and the city certainly has no interest in squelching free speech.”

ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.