The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Court on Friday unanimously ruled that a Pittsburgh ordinance that creates a 15-foot “buffer zone” outside of any hospital entrance where demonstrations may not take place is constitutional.
The case was brought by Nikki Bruni, a local leader of Forty Days for Life, a religious anti-abortion campaign. The group utilizes “sidewalk counseling” outside of a Pittsburgh Planned Parenthood location in an attempt to persuade clinic patients against receiving an abortion.
US Circuit Judge Cheryl Ann Krause wrote a 38-page opinion affirming the lower court’s decision. Krause said that the “relatively small buffer zone imposed by the ordinance … does not prevent groups like Forty Days for Life from congregating within sight and earshot of the clinic.” Additionally, the act does not prevent any demonstrators or picketers from being seen and heard.
Prior to the enactment of the ordinance, Commander Donaldson of the Pittsburgh Police Department reported that police had been summoned to Planned Parenthood 22 times in the previous six months alone to “mediate confrontations” and respond to incidents ranging from signs “obstructing the front of the building” to protestors “follow[ing] … people to the doorway.”
Krause noted that the ordinance says nothing about leafletting or peaceful one-on-one conversations, as the ordinance only prohibits congregating, patrolling, picketing and demonstrating.