Pittsburgh Settles Lawsuit With Pro-Life Advocate on Speech

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 9, 2011   |   12:11PM   |   Pittsburgh, PA

The city of Pittsburgh settled a lawsuit filed by a pro-life advocate against it over the buffer zone law that has been the subject of lawsuits by pro-life advocates. The debate revolves around a 2005 bubble zone law that restricted access to public areas surrounding abortion businesses.

U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer, this summer, granted a request from pro-life advocate Mary Kathryn Brown and ordered the city to pay $209,276 in attorney fees and costs, mostly to attorneys from The Alliance Defense Fund, a pro-life legal group that represented Brown.

Now, new court filings filed yesterday show the five-year-old lawsuit is now closed.

Brown sued after the city implemented legislation requiring pro-life advocates respect both a “buffer zone” around abortion facilities and a “bubble zone” around people going to those facilities. Judge Fischer found the city could enforce a buffer, or a bubble, but not both. The city picked the buffer, and, last year, reported to the court that officers were being trained to enforce it. City Solicitor Daniel Regan said that training is complete.

The measure prohibited pro-life advocates from coming within 15 feet of the door of any health care facility, which would include abortion centers. Within 100 feet of the entrance, pro-life advocates must stay a distance of eight feet away from anyone heading to the abortion facility.

Regan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper the money owed to Brown has been paid.

Fisher reduced the amount requested from Brown’s attorneys by $48,272 and the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is considering a similar fee request for $128,985.

Regan said the fees were excessive and the city challenged the amount.

Alliance Defense Fund attorneys challenged the local law as unconstitutional for prohibiting speech and helped represent a pro-life nurse who took on the ordinance, which prohibited her from counseling and speaking with women.

In December, Fischer permanently prohibited the city using the so-called 100-foot bubble zone. That came after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit issued a key decision striking down the ordinance.