Thursday, June 02, 2016

3rd Circuit: Challenge To Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones May Move Ahead

In Bruni v. City of Pittsburgh, (3d Cir., June 1, 2016), the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal of a challenge to Pittsburgh's law creating a 15-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics in which demonstrators and pickets are barred.  The majority held:
the First Amendment claims are sufficient to go forward at this stage of the litigation. The speech at issue is core political speech entitled to the maximum protection afforded by the First Amendment, and the City cannot burden it without first trying, or at least demonstrating that it has seriously considered, substantially less restrictive alternatives that would achieve the City’s legitimate, substantial, and content-neutral interests.
Judge Fuentes concurred in the judgment, but filed an opinion disagreeing with the majority's reasoning, arguing that requiring governments that place significant burdens on speech to prove that less restrictive means either failed or were seriously considered and rejected distorts the "narrow-tailoring" doctrine by eliminating the government's latitude to adopt regulations that are not the least intrusive means of serving the government's interest. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on the decision.