A federal appeals court has struck down an ordinance that created two types of buffer zones around medical facilities after a Christian legal group challenged the law on behalf of a nurse who protests abortions.
-- From "Court rejects Pa. buffer law on abortion clinics" by Joe Mandak, Associated Press 11/2/09
In a ruling issued Friday, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found the 2005 Pittsburgh ordinance unduly restricted protesters from passing out leaflets and participating in other forms of free speech. The Pittsburgh law bans protesters from standing within 15 feet of entrances but also makes them stand 8 feet from clients in a 100-foot buffer around entrances.
The court found that either zone by itself could be legal. The U.S. Supreme Court has already upheld a Colorado state law establishing a similar 100-foot zone and decisions by courts in Florida and New York to ban protesters from within several feet of medical facility entrances.
But, combined, the appeals court found the zones violate the free speech rights of the protesters who find it difficult to hand leaflets to clinic clients.
[The Alliance Defense Fund] sued to challenge the ordinance in 2006 on behalf of Mary Kathryn Brown, a nurse from Indiana Township, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Brown has spent more than 15 years attempting to persuade women not to have abortions by speaking to them and handing out literature about the procedure's physical dangers.
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UPDATE 3/31/11: "Lawsuit over citation near Planned Parenthood settled" posted at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Keith Tucci claimed in a complaint in U.S. District Court that a police officer wrongly cited him for defiant trespass and described him on the ticket as "known anti-abortion activist."
Mr. Tucci said he had simply passed through the legislated buffer zone around the clinic on a public sidewalk, and was later found not guilty at a hearing before District Judge Oscar J. Petite. He claimed that the citation was a violation of First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion, and of due process.
Mr. Tucci was director of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue from 1990 to 1994. In 2005, as pastor of Living Hope Church in Latrobe, he went before Pittsburgh City Council to threaten to defy, and challenge legally, limits on protests near abortion clinics.
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