WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Thursday to take up challenges to rulings upholding laws in Chicago, Illinois and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania that create buffer zones around abortion facilities. The laws require those who wish to reach abortion-minded mothers to stand back at a certain distance away from the entrance to the facility, making it harder to communicate with those intent on having their unborn child murdered.
While the denial for certiorari was without explanation, the court did note that Justice Clarence Thomas was in favor of hearing the cases.
The 2009 Chicago ordinance classifies a person who “knowingly approaches another person within eight feet of such person, unless such other person consents, for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill to, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling with such other person in the public way within a radius of 50 feet from any entrance door to a hospital, medical clinic or healthcare facility” guilty of disorderly conduct.
The 2012 Harrisburg statute states that “[n]o person or persons shall knowingly congregate, patrol, picket or demonstrate in a zone extending 20 feet from any portion of an entrance to, exit from, or driveway of a health care facility.”
Sidewalk counselors outside of facilities in these cites, who engage in leafleting and one-on-one conversation with abortion-minded women, considered the rules a violation of their First Amendment rights to speak, assemble and exercise their religion. They note that the laws make it difficult for them to effectively communicate since they must stand so far away.
The Chicago and Harrisburg ordinances were challenged in 2016, but the courts upheld both statutes. Their attorneys, the Thomas More Society and Liberty Counsel, respectively, were hoping that the U.S. Supreme Court would take the cases as provide clarity to the issue in light of past legal precedent.
“With its ‘bubble zone’ law, the City of Chicago is doing women a great disservice by denying them access to information at a critical time in their lives,” Senior Counsel Thomas Olp with the Thomas More Society said in an interview posted to the organization’s website.
“Additionally, this law is vague and over-broad and does not serve any legitimate interest of the city. Chicago has never had an issue with obstruction of access to abortion facilities,” he stated. “The abortion lobby wants people to believe that pro-life advocates who witness outside abortion clinics are aggressive and threatening. That’s just not true.”
As previously reported, the Supreme Court did rule on another abortion case this week, as Justice John Roberts sided with his liberal colleagues on Monday to strike down a Louisiana law requiring abortionists to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital in the event that a mother is injured in the process of having her unborn baby killed.
Roberts, nominated to the court by then-President George W. Bush, opined that the rule “imposes an undue burden on access to abortion.”
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