Supreme Court Won’t Hear Two Abortion Clinic Free Speech Cases

( The Supreme Court will not hear two cases regarding activists being barred from protesting outside abortion clinics. That decision will mean limits on the practice in both Harrisburg, the capital city of Pennsylvania, as well as Chicago will remain in place.

Two appeals were being brought to the Supreme Court by groups of anti-abortion activists who don’t agree with their city’s ruling on local ordinances. The justices, however, declined to hear the two cases.

In Chicago, the local ordinance prohibits protesters from getting within eight feet of anyone who is within 50 feet of a healthcare facility without their consent. This prevents them from handing out leaflets, offering counseling or protesting. The ordinance, which was first introduced back in 2009, was upheld by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

In Harrisburg, people are prohibited from demonstrating or even congregating within 20 feet of any entrance or exit of a healthcare facility. The ordinance was created in response to protesters causing disruptions outside two abortion clinics within Harrisburg. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia upheld the measure in 2019.

While neither of these cases would have affected the practice of abortion, they were free seen as important free speech cases by those bringing the appeals to the Supreme Court. The cases were pitting protesters’ rights to free speech against providers of women’s healthcare over demonstrations that are held outside their clinics.

The Supreme Court did take action on a case directly involving abortion rights on Thursday as well. Following up on their major decision on Monday, the justices on Thursday directed a lower court to reconsider whether two abortion restrictions in Indiana are indeed legal.

One of the restrictions would require all women who want to get an abortion to first conduct an ultrasound at least 18 hours before their pregnancy is terminated. The second restriction deals with times when a minor is seeking an abortion, expanding the parental notification rules of the state.

A lower court in Indiana recently struck down both of those measures.

On Monday, the Supreme Court delivered a rather surprising decision, striking down an abortion law in Louisiana that required doctors who provide abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital that is within 30 miles of their clinic. Those who were challenging the law said the requirement would have forced two of the state’s three abortion providers to close down.

Monday’s decision was a surprise because many had expected the conservative majority of the Supreme Court to start rolling back abortion protections that have been in place since the landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion across the country in 1973.

Chief Justice John Roberts once again sided with the four liberal justices as the decisive vote in Monday’s case. It was the third time recently that Roberts had broken from the conservative majority in his decision.

As part of his reasoning for the decision, Roberts cited a similar court ruling from four years ago in Texas.