Court Denies Injunction but Keeps Alive Challenge to Abortion Buffer Zone Law

Sep 2, 2016

HARRISBURG, PA – A Pennsylvania federal district court denied an injunction to block an abortion buffer zone law but has ruled the lawsuit may continue. The case, Reilly v. City of Harrisburg, challenges a Harrisburg buffer zone law. Liberty Counsel filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Harrisburg because its ordinance created unconstitutional buffer zones on public sidewalks and public property 20 feet away from abortion clinic entrances, exits and driveways.

In practice, this ordinance pushes sidewalk counselors away from having access to people using the public sidewalk and thus silences their speech. Liberty Counsel represents Becky Biter, Rosalie Gross and Colleen Reilly, who have regularly engaged in peaceful sidewalk counseling on the public sidewalks outside the Planned Parenthood and Hillcrest abortion facilities. Since the passage of the ordinance, they have been harassed and intimated by clinic staff and the local police.

“We will continue the court challenge to this speech restrictive law,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “We will likely appeal the injunction but will certainly continue the legal challenge. A record number of abortion facilities have closed in the past several years due to sidewalk counselors providing help and information to women, an increased number of laws restricting abortion, and fewer doctors willing to devote their careers to killing children. These abortion buffer zone laws are desperate efforts to prevent women from receiving information that could change their fateful decisions to end the life of their child. These laws collide with free speech and will not be successful,” said Staver.

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a buffer zone around a Massachusetts abortion facility. In 1994, Mat Staver argued the first abortion buffer zone case at the High Court in the case of Madsen v. Women’s Health Clinic.

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.