Court Rules Against Abortion Law Silencing Free Speech of Pro-Life People Outside Abortion Clinics

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 25, 2017   |   5:56PM   |   Harrisburg, PA

Today, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Liberty Counsel’s pro-life clients, Colleen Reilly and Becky Biter, in their lawsuit against a Harrisburg ordinance which created unconstitutional buffer zones that silence pro-life speech on public sidewalks around abortion clinics. The federal Court of Appeals held that the lower court erred when it denied Liberty Counsel’s request to immediately prohibit further enforcement of the ordinance.

Liberty Counsel represents Biter and Reilly, who regularly engaged in peaceful counseling on public sidewalks around Harrisburg’s two abortion clinics. They have been harassed and intimated by clinic staff and the local police since the City enacted the ordinance, which was drafted and pushed by Planned Parenthood. This unconstitutional ordinance purports to expel pro-life speakers from public property and pushes pro-life counselors sometimes 50 feet to more than 70 feet away from the women they are attempting to help.

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The U.S. Supreme Court recently overturned similar buffer zones in McCullen v. Coakley. Their unanimous decision establishes a strong precedent in favor of free speech and against this unlawful ordinance. The Third Circuit’s ruling today clears the way for the ordinance to be re-examined and hopefully invalidated in the lower court.

Horatio Mihet, Vice President of Legal Affairs for Liberty Counsel, presented the oral argument in the case. “We are delighted that the Court of Appeals has corrected the lower court’s error in refusing to immediately toss this clearly unconstitutional ordinance” said Mihet. “That the City of Harrisburg cannot close its public sidewalks to speech that offends and cuts into the profits of Planned Parenthood is obvious to everyone but the City. We will continue to challenge this ordinance until the Constitution is vindicated and restored on the streets of Harrisburg,” said Mihet.