Pittsburgh Poised to Repeal Ordinance Banning Pro-Life Leaflets | American Center for Law and Justice
  Search  |  Login  |  Register

By Jay Sekulow1311345802000

I wanted to bring you an update on a case that we've been involved in since last year - a case that has significant ramifications for the First Amendment.

As you may recall, we secured an important victory in federal court last fall against the City of Pittsburgh. The issue: an ordinance that violated the constitutional rights of pro-life advocates.

It all began last fall when we filed a federal lawsuit challenging Pittsburgh Ordinance 601.02, which prohibited the distribution of leaflets in the City. Our clients wanted to distribute pro-life leaflets - in the days leading up to the November election - on unoccupied parked cars without fear of fine, penalty or censure.

Our lawsuit was clear: the ordinance was unconstitutional. It was overbroad, vague and impinged on the rights of free speech and due process that the United States Constitution guarantees.

The court acted quickly. It granted our request for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in October, clearing the way for our clients to distribute the materials before the November election. U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone found that our arguments demonstrated "a likelihood of success on the merits" and enjoined the City from enforcing the ordinance. In February, Judge Cercone issued an order granting our motion for a preliminary injunction, explaining that the City's desire to control littering by barring the distribution of the leaflets did not outweigh the constitutional rights of our clients.

In recent months, we have focused on efforts to permanently resolve this case. And, now the City of Pittsburgh is moving forward to remove this troubling ordinance, which was adopted in 2008. The City already has agreed to pay $35,000 in attorneys' fees to settle the suit and is moving forward with legislation in City Council to repeal it.

In an editorial entitled - "Speech is speech: Pittsburgh must remove an offensive ban" - the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette concluded:

"The purpose of the 2008 ordinance was to restrict leafleting in the interests of curbing littering. In a city where litter is a problem, especially Downtown, the ordinance made some superficial sense. But what seems a potential source of litter to one person is free speech to another -- and that right isn't superficial, it's fundamental." As the Post-Gazette put it: "It doesn't matter whether the speech takes a position that is pro-life or pro-choice - it's all protected."

I will keep you posted on when this problematic ordinance is taken off the books in the City of Pittsburgh.

Latest in
Pro Life

Looking for the Silver Lining

By Walter M. Weber1467223330083

The Supreme Court's 5-3 decision in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt , striking down two Texas abortion regulations, was a great disappointment . No question. Assuming the role of Supreme Medical Review Board, the Court took a magnifying glass to scrutinize the Texas regulations for any flaws or...

read more

Supreme Court Puts Women at Risk

By Jay Sekulow1467052217627

It’s the first time in nearly a decade since the Supreme Court has weighed in on the issue of abortion. In Monday’s 5-3 decision, the high court struck down a Texas law that required common-sense safety standards for abortion clinics – regulations designed to protect women. In writing for the...

read more

SCOTUS Puts Profits Over Women’s Health

By Jay Sekulow1467043213457

It’s extremely disappointing. The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down commonsense safety standards for abortion clinics – regulations designed to protect women. The 5-3 decision in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt struck down a Texas law regulating abortion clinics. The Court missed...

read more

Briefs Filed to Expose Illegal Abortions

By ACLJ.org1466102628040

Last summer, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) began to release a series of videos documenting criminal and other illegal acts of abortion providers, medical researchers, and fetal tissue procurement companies after the group spent a few years compiling an extensive collection of videos and...

read more