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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Chicago's Ordinance Restricting Contact Near Abortion Clinics Upheld

In 2009, the City of Chicago adopted an ordinance that prohibits any person from approaching within 8 feet of another person in the vicinity of an abortion clinic if their purpose is to engage in counseling, education, protest, or similar activities. Pro-life sidewalk counselors sued the City of Chicago to challenge the "bubble zone" ordinance, claiming that the ordinance violates their freedom of speech. The district court upheld the ordinance, citing a U.S. Supreme Court case from 2000 (Hill v. Colorado) that upheld a nearly identical law. 

Plaintiffs appealed to the Seventh Circuit, relying on subsequent Supreme Court cases to argue that the Seventh Circuit should not rely on Hill v. Colorado. The Seventh Circuit disagreed, finding that the Hill case was still valid and had not been overruled in the subsequent cases. Price v. City of Chicago.  Since the City of Chicago's "bubble zone" ordinance was narrower than the Colorado regulation (Colorado restricted contact within 100 feet of the clinic entrance, Chicago restricts contact within a 50 foot radius), the Court upheld the ruling in favor of the City that the ordinance was not unconstitutional.

It is important to note that the Seventh Circuit acknowledged that other cases have struck down contact restrictions at abortion clinics, including a state-wide restriction adopted by Massachusetts. However, the Court determined that the restriction at issue in this case (Chicago's bubble zone ordinance) was similar to, and more narrow, than the restriction upheld in the Hill v. Colorado case, which the Court noted had not been overruled.


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