A Philadelphia clinic received a partial victory in a recent lawsuit, where a judge decided that the staff’s attempts to keep anti-choice protesters physically away from the clients did not constitute a denial of the protesters’ first amendment rights. However, the clinic will still have to deal with the constant accosting from those activists.
In a ruling Thursday, U.S. District Judge James Gardner dismissed the city and chief of police from the suit.
“Plaintiffs have not established that the city defendants are obligated to ensure that plaintiffs are able to counsel and provide literature to women entering through the crosswalk,” Gardner wrote.
He also granted the women’s center and its director partial summary judgment, finding that the First Amendment claim must fail.
But Gardner refused to grant summary judgment for the center and director Jennifer Boulanger on the public nuisance claim, which alleges that the body-blocking tactics stifled pedestrian and vehicle traffic. The judge noted that the center failed to defend the claims that using “escorts” for patients and staff amounts to a public nuisance.
Christopher Ferrara, with the American Catholic Lawyers Association, told Courthouse News that “”we’re investigating all our options, including an appeal, and I’m not going to comment on any allegations at this time.”
So to summarize, the anti-choice protesters can not sue the clinic for preventing them from physically blocking the sidewalk or from touching clients. But the clinic cannot force the protesters to stop harassing the clients and must continue to use escorts to keep the protesters from physically contacting the clients.
When exactly did freedom of speech become freedom to touch strangers again?