Big Pro-Life Free Speech Victory in Federal Court Against Unconstitutional Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones | American Center for Law and Justice
  Search  |  Login  |  Register

ACLJ Profile Completion

Verified

Victory Against Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

By Francis J. Manion1510790270332

More than two years ago, we filed a lawsuit against the City of Englewood, New Jersey, challenging its then recently enacted ordinance creating a buffer-zone outside the Metropolitan Medical Associates abortion clinic. We reported on the case here.

That ordinance made it unlawful for people like our client, Jeryl Turco, to enter or walk through a "buffer zone" painted on the public sidewalk in front of the clinic that, effectively, barred her and other pro-life sidewalk counselors from what the Supreme Court has called a "quintessential traditional public forum." So-called "clinic escorts," clinic employees, and the general public remained free to use the sidewalk. Pro-life counselors, on the other hand, were subject to minimum mandatory fines of $1,000, plus an additional monetary penalty of up to $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail for setting foot in the buffer zone.

The remarkable thing is that Englewood enacted its Ordinance while the U.S. Supreme Court was considering the legality of a nearly identical Massachusetts law, a statute which the unanimous Court would strike down, in the case of McCullen v. Coakley., a scant two months after the Englewood ordinance took effect.

In McCullen (a case in which we filed a critical amicus brief), the Supreme Court noted that Massachusetts had numerous options available to it to deal with legitimate concerns about obstruction, pushing and shoving, and the like, but instead chose to pass a law that “categorically excludes nonexempt individuals from the buffer zones, unnecessarily sweeping in innocent individuals and their speech.” As Chief Justice Roberts put it, "a painted line on the sidewalk is easy to enforce, but the prime objective of the First Amendment is not efficiency."

This morning we received a decision from the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey granting our Motion for Summary Judgment in its entirety. The Court held that the Englewood ordinance, as we had argued, was unconstitutional in that it violated the First Amendment's Freedom of Speech and Assembly Clauses as well as the Free Speech provisions of the New Jersey Constitution. The Court found that the ordinance was both overbroad and not narrowly tailored and noted that Englewood could not show – as required under McCullen – that it had tried or seriously considered less restrictive measures such as targeted prosecutions of actual lawbreakers or injunctions against specific individuals. In other words, the City chose the efficiency of a painted line over the sometimes messy breathing space for free speech required by the First Amendment.

We at the ACLJ are certainly pleased that our efforts to secure the necessary breathing space for pro-life free speech in Englewood have come to fruition in this case. Sidewalk counselors such as Jeryl Turco are on the front lines of the battle for hearts, souls, and lives on the public spaces outside of abortion businesses all across this country. As the McCullen Court noted, they "are not protestors. They seek not merely to express their opposition to abortion, but to inform women of various alternatives and to provide help in pursuing them." Sidewalk counselors "believe that they can accomplish this objective only through personal, caring consensual conversations." Buffer zones have the effect – and no doubt the intent – of forcing sidewalk counselors either to shout their messages in a vociferous way in order to be heard and, thus, undermine the whole point of sidewalk counseling – or to abandon the field entirely. We cannot permit this to happen.

The ACLJ remains steadfast in its decades long commitment to defending the free speech rights of those on the front lines advancing and protecting the lives of the unborn.

Save Babies at the Supreme Court

Pro Life  Signatures

LOGIN

Receive the latest news, updates, and contribution opportunities from ACLJ.

$20
$40
$60
$120
$240
Make this a monthly tax-deductible gift.

As we aggressively battle taxpayer-funded the abortion industry to save babies at the Supreme Court, we urgently need you. Your gift could save lives.

Email Address is required.
First Name is required.
Last Name is required.
Credit Card Number is required.
Verification Code is required.
Expiration Month is required.
Expiration Year is required.
Receive the latest news, updates, and contribution opportunities from ACLJ.
Encourage your friends to sign and donate by sharing this petition.
Latest in
Pro Life

ACLJ Files Notice of Appeal To Overturn Flawed Verdict

By Jordan Sekulow1600439507899

Caution: The following article contains graphic information that sensitive readers may find disturbing. Planned Parenthood was exposed in court, the United States Senate, and House of Representatives for its disgusting practices. And yet, in a bizarre twist of justice, a California jury awarded the...

read more

ANTIFA Targets Pro-Life Leader

By Richard A. Grenell, Special Advisor for National Security and Foreign Policy1599753300000

Caution: The following article contains graphic images. On Tuesday night, in Portland, Oregon, Pro-Life leader Tayler Hansen was attacked by ANTIFA. Hansen was bloodied and bruised. He is lucky to be alive. Hansen has been traveling the country painting Baby Lives Matter murals in cities where...

read more

ACLJ's Report at UN: Abortion Harms Women and Girls

By Olivia Summers1599747703641

Recently, the U.N. Working Group on discrimination against women and girls stated that it will be presenting “a thematic report on women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in situations of crisis to the 47th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in June 2021.” To aid...

read more

Trump Admin Seeks Supreme Court Stay in Abortion Pill Litigation

By Walter M. Weber1598901764978

The Supreme Court once again has an abortion case on its docket. At issue are the FDA’s safety regulations for the RU-486 abortion pill, also known as Mifeprex. A federal district court in Maryland enjoined the regulations, and the federal government is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stay –

read more