[JURIST] Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) [advocacy website] on Friday said it is considering appealing [press release] a ruling [opinion, PDF] by the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania [official website], which upheld a Pittsburgh Ordinance [PDF, Ordinance No. 49] that imposes a 15-foot buffer zone restricting free speech around hospitals, medical offices and medical clinics. ADF represents five anti-abortion plaintiffs, including Nikki Bruni, who engage in practices such as “sidewalk counseling” of individuals entering healthcare facilities to receive abortions. ADF counsel Elissa Graves stated:
Americans, including those who are pro-life, have the freedom to speak with whomever they please on public sidewalks. As the [US] Supreme Court noted just last year, this freedom has been a foundational element in American life since the nation began. Because of this, we are considering appeal of the court’s decision, which allows enforcement of Pittsburgh’s unconstitutional censorship zones to continue.
The plaintiffs hope to strike down Pittsburgh’s buffer zone so that they may more successfully engage in sidewalk counseling of patients seeking abortion.
The plaintiffs brought this lawsuit in light of a recent US Supreme Court [official website] decision that struck down [JURIST report] a similar buffer zone in Massachusetts. The Court held in McCullen v. Coakley [SCOTUS backgrounder] that a 35-foot protester-free buffer zone around the entrance or driveway of an abortion clinic is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment [text]. The McCullen decision was unexpected [JURIST op-ed] by some, as the Court had upheld a similar restriction on free speech in Hill v. Colorado [text] in 2000.