Appeals court OKs suit on Pittsburgh abortion buffer zones

Written by The Associated Press | Jun 2, 2016 2:40 AM

A clinic escort stands down the street from the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center in East Liberty. The escorts volunteer to usher women from their cars to the clinic, shielding them from anti-abortion protesters. (Photo by Connor Mulvaney/PublicSource)

(Pittsburgh) -- A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit by abortion protesters who say their free speech rights are violated by a Pittsburgh ordinance establishing a 15-foot buffer zone around clinic entrances.

The decision handed down by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals doesn't address the merits of the lawsuit filed on behalf of protesters by Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative activist group.

The city says the opinion merely means the city will have future opportunities "to prove the ordinance should be upheld as constitutional."

In allowing the lawsuit to go forward, the court recognized a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a 35-foot protest zone around clinic entrances in Massachusetts.

The decision says "buffer" zone cases are so fact-specific that the Pittsburgh lawsuit must go forward for now.

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