Abortion Buffer Zone Case Raises Important Issues for SCOTUS

Jan 30, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Liberty Counsel filed a reply brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review Reilly v. City of Harrisburg where a buffer zone ordinance restricts pro-life speech but not other speech outside a Planned Parenthood abortion facility.

Liberty Counsel points out in its brief that Harrisburg applied the ordinance by singling out pro-life sidewalk counselors because of their “pro-life viewpoint of their sidewalk counseling…and [the Ordinance] has only been applied to restrict pro-life speech.”

Liberty Counsel is not only asking the High Court to hold the City of Harrisburg liable for its unconstitutional ordinance, but also to overrule Hill v. Colorado. The Third Circuit in the Reilly case relied on Hill to categorize buffer-zone laws as content-neutral speech restrictions which distorts the First Amendment. The High Court’s subsequent decisions in McCullen v. Coakley and Reed v. Town of Gilbert were contrary and found that laws restricting speech based on its function or purpose are in fact content restrictions, “regardless of the government’s benign motive, content-neutral justification, or lack of ‘animus toward the ideas contained’ in the regulated speech.” A number of Supreme Court Justices have called upon the Court to overrule Hill.

Liberty Counsel represents Colleen Reilly and Becky Biter, who engage in peaceful sidewalk counseling to encourage women to protect the life of their unborn children. The City of Harrisburg enforced the ordinance beyond the 20-foot zone silencing Reilly and Biter on more than 70 feet of public sidewalk in front of the Harrisburg Planned Parenthood preventing them from quiet one-on-one conversations, peaceful sidewalk counseling, prayer, and distributing life-affirming literature.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “The City of Harrisburg’s ordinance violates the First Amendment and must be struck down. This case raises important First Amendment issues that the Supreme Court should address.”

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