Abortion Buffer Zone Challenge (Liberty Counsel)

Mar 26, 2018

HARRISBURG, PA — Liberty Counsel filed a brief last week in the federal case Reilly v. City of Harrisburg, seeking a preliminary injunction against a “buffer zone” ordinance enacted by the City of Harrisburg which prohibits pro-life speech on public sidewalks up to 70 feet outside a Planned Parenthood abortion center. The ordinance was drafted by Planned Parenthood and passed without any debate or serious discussion by Planned Parenthood’s pro-abortion allies on the Harrisburg City Council.

Liberty Counsel’s brief follows a two-day evidentiary hearing in October, where Liberty Counsel’s clients, Colleen Reilly and Becky Biter, who have regularly engaged in peaceful sidewalk counseling to encourage women to protect the life of their unborn children, testified. Biter and Reilly have been harassed and intimidated by clinic staff and the local police since the ordinance passed. During the hearing, they testified about how the ordinance shuts down their peaceful, life-saving counseling on the public sidewalk outside of Harrisburg’s last remaining abortion facility.

The hearing was ordered by the Court of Appeals after Liberty Counsel won the first appeal in the case following the trial court’s initial denial of the motion seeking to block enforcement of the ordinance. Liberty Counsel demonstrated that the City of Harrisburg blatantly ignored its constitutional obligations to protect speech by imposing an ideological ban on pro-life speech in a traditional public forum where the First Amendment provides the most robust protection.

“The City of Harrisburg has a constitutional mandate to protect the free speech rights of all people in its jurisdiction, and it has no authority to discriminate on the basis of pro-life viewpoints,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Public sidewalks and parks have always been protected as places where people can gather to participate in the marketplace of ideas. The city blatantly ignored the First Amendment to appease Planned Parenthood by trying to silence all pro-life speech. Abandoning core constitutional requirements represents a dangerous precedent and cannot survive decades of First Amendment law,” said Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.