Court Says Fort Wayne, Indiana Unfairly Censored Ad From Pro-Life Pregnancy Center

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Jun 23, 2016   |   1:29PM   |   Fort Wayne, IN

An Indiana pregnancy center won a victory in court this week after the city bus system in Fort Wayne tried to censor its life-affirming ads.

On Wednesday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was unconstitutional for the bus system, Citilink, to reject the ad from Women’s Health Link, according to Alliance Defending Freedom, which represents the pregnancy center.

ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot celebrated the decision for upholding the pregnancy center’s First Amendment rights.

“A government shouldn’t be censoring ads from a group like Women’s Health Link when it is running nearly identical ads from other groups, such as The United Way. The 7th Circuit’s decision rightly understands that the First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all people, regardless of their political, moral, or religious views,” said Theriot, who argued before the 7th Circuit earlier this month. “The city of Fort Wayne’s bus system has a responsibility, like all other government entities, to ensure equal access to community advertising forums that it creates.”

Women’s Health Link provides pregnant women with alternatives to abortion through material support and counseling. The 11-by-17-inch ad that it submitted to the city has a smiling woman’s face and the words “You are not alone” and “Free resources for women seeking health care” with the organization’s website and telephone number, according to court documents.

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The case began in 2013 when Women’s Health Link asked to place advertising cards in the interior of the city public transportation company Citilink’s buses, LifeNews previously reported. Citilink denied the request twice, saying that Women’s Health Link is associated with Allen County Right to Life, a pro-life organization, and that the Women’s Health Link website discusses “controversial issues.”

Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit against the city in April 2014, arguing that the city is discriminating against the pregnancy center’s viewpoint.

According to the legal group, the 7th Circuit’s decision recognized that the pregnancy center’s ad “complies fully with the conditions set forth in Citilink’s rules” and found that the ad “is a public service announcement that does not so much as hint at advocating or endorsing any political, moral, or religious position… Yet the district judge granted summary judgment in favor of Citilink. He shouldn’t have.”

The 7th Circuit Court ruling overturned a U.S. District Court decision that sided with the city bus company.