Sunday, July 31, 2011

Court Shields Women From Abortion Clinic Escorts

The very liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco unanimously ruled that the Oakland "medical safety zones" ordinance that limits pro-life counselors from approaching women entering an abortion clinic must be equally enforced against clinic advocates attempting to shield the women from the pro-lifers.

-- From "Court holds all abortion demonstrators equal under Oakland 'bubble ordinance'" by Sean Maher, Oakland Tribune 7/28/11

A city law aimed at protecting women from anti-abortion activists outside medical clinics was upheld Thursday by a federal court that ordered the law must also restrict the behavior of volunteer escorts who help guide women into those clinics.

Oakland's "bubble ordinance," passed in 2007, creates a 100-foot zone around entrances to the city's reproductive health clinics. Within that bubble, it is illegal to come within 8 feet of anyone trying to enter the clinic "for the purpose of counseling, harassing, or interfering with (him or her)." That restriction goes away if a demonstrator simply asks, "May I speak with you?" and the person says OK.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ordinance but agreed that enforcement must go both ways: Escorts must get permission to contact people entering the clinics before doing anything else.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "City Chastised for Taking Sides in Abortion Debate" by Tim Hull, Court House News Service 7/29/11

Though the city lets independent "escorts" help women enter clinics unmolested, it fined a man under the so-called "bubble ordinance" for trying to counsel the same women against having an abortion, the federal appeals court found. . . .

Walter Hoye, a minister and self-described "sidewalk counselor," opposes abortion and seeks to convince women to eschew the procedure. After being convicted of two separate violations of the ordinance, he filed a federal complaint alleging violations of his free-speech and due-process rights.

Hoye also alleged that the "escorts" often tell women not to listen to him or take his literature, and they attempt to block his message by putting up barriers and making noise, the ruling states.

While the ordinance, modeled after a Colorado law upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court more than a decade ago in Hill v. Colorado, is constitutional, Oakland failed to enforce it properly, the 9th Circuit found.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Appeals Court Upholds Pro-Life Pastor’s Free Speech Rights" by Steven Ertelt, 7/29/11

Hoye, a pastor who has highlighted the problem of high abortion rates in the African-American community, saw his rights to provide abortion alternatives information to women outside local abortion facilities denied . . .

Although Hoye scrupulously followed the law, he has suffered arrest, prosecution and imprisonment due to Oakland’s determination to shut out his message, while abortion facility staff have never been prosecuted. However, the appeals court concluded, “Oakland’s enforcement policy is a constitutionally invalid, content-based regulation of speech.”

LLDF Legal Director Katie Short told the decision is also a victory for pro-life advocates because it limits the effect of a ruling in a case in Colorado, the Hill decision, that also limited the free speech rights of pro-life advocates. While the opinion also stated “we do not find any relevant differences between the Ordinance’s purpose and text and those of the Colorado statute that the Supreme Court held to be constitutional in Hill,” the Court noted that the reasoning of the Hill decision “has been criticized by scholars of various stripes.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.