Supreme Court won’t hear PA abortion clinic free speech case

AP Political

Anti-abortion activists with “Bound 4 Life” demonstrate at the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, as the justices begin a new term without the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is declining to get involved in a case about free speech outside a Pittsburgh abortion clinic.

The high court turned away the case Monday. The court’s decision not to hear the case leaves in place a 2019 appeals court decision that upheld a Pittsburgh ordinance creating a 15-foot “buffer zone” where protests are barred around entrances to health care facilities. The decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed “sidewalk counseling” within that zone.

The appeals court said the city can restrict congregating, picketing, patrolling and demonstrating in the immediate vicinity of clinics, but the zone restrictions do not apply to “calm and peaceful” one-on-one conversations by anti-abortion activists seeking to speak with women entering a clinic.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that he agreed with the court’s decision not to take up this particular case because it “involves unclear, preliminary questions about the proper interpretation of state law.” But he said the court should take up the issue of buffer zones in an appropriate case.

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