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Appeals Court Upholds Ban of Protests Outside Abortion Clinics But Says Pro-Life Counseling Is Still Allowed

  • Amanda Casanova

    Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and…

  • 2019 Oct 22

A federal appeals court panel has upheld a Pittsburgh ordinance that restricts demonstrations outside of abortion clinics.

According to The Christian Post, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit panel decided to uphold the city’s law, which bans demonstrations within 15 feet of entrances to healthcare facilities, including abortion clinics.

Judge Cheryl Ann Krause said in the opinion that the ordinance did not “prohibit the sidewalk counseling in which the laintiffs seek to engage within the zone.

“No doubt, if the Ordinance by its terms did prohibit one-on-one conversations about abortion but not about other subjects within the zone, it would be highly problematic,” wrote Judge Krause.

“The text of the Ordinance says nothing about leafletting or peaceful one-on-one conversations, let alone on a particular topic or for a particular purpose.”

Judge Thomas Hardiman said in his opinion that the city “cannot target quiet conversations even if they are not in a tone of ‘kindness, love, hope, gentleness, and help.’”

And the City’s enforcement of the Ordinance must be evenhanded,” Hardiman said, referring to abortion clinic employees who could not be punished for counseling people entering or exiting the facility.

In a statement, the Alliance Defending Freedom said the ruling means that “the government can’t censor peaceful, pro-life conversation on public sidewalks.

“Citizens have the freedom to share a message of hope and compassion with any mother seeking to make an informed choice about her pregnancy,” Graves said.

“Pittsburgh politicians aren’t at liberty to silence speech they dislike. As the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in last year’s NIFLA v. Becerra decision, ‘the people lose when the government is the one deciding which ideas should prevail.’”

The CEO of Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania said she was also pleased with the decision.

“So as long as the protesters comply with this, we don’t anticipate it having any impact on our patients. They could just say, ‘No, thank you.’ As long as they follow what the law is, they will be fine, and if they don’t, then we will involve the authorities.”

Photo courtesy: Getty Images/Drew Angerer/Staff