A pro-life activist in Denver is challenging state and local laws that prohibit counseling women within 100 feet of an abortion clinic, which she argues violates her constitutional rights.
Wendy Faustin filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Colorado on June 1 against Democrat Gov. Jared Polis as well as other state and local officials with regard to a 1993 “bubble law” that she alleges violates the First Amendment and her 14th Amendment right to equal protection.
“The basic idea is that free speech means the government can’t squash or silence messages it doesn’t like; it can’t punish people who voice those messages,” Roger Byron, lead counsel in Faustin’s case, told Fox News Digital.
“That kind of government action is blatantly unconstitutional. The whole point of the First Amendment is to prevent stuff like that. And yet, what we have here in Colorado and Denver is a law and an ordinance that does just that,” said Byron, who is representing Faustin on behalf of the Plano-based nonprofit First Liberty Institute.
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Faustin, who believes “abortion is a horrific moral wrong,” has protested outside abortion clinics for decades, but she says Colorado’s 8-foot buffer law impinges upon her constitutional rights and forces her to shout at women entering abortion clinics instead of having a conversation with them, according to the suit.
Byron said the laws have rendered free speech outside abortion clinics “essentially impossible.”
“Under these laws, it’s a crime to be within 100 feet of the door of an abortion center or to get within eight feet of another person to hand her a pamphlet that tells her how to get some help,” Byron said.
Similar laws exist in Maine, Massachusetts and Montana.
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The Supreme Court upheld Colorado’s bubble law in 2000 based on the argument that the law regulated where speech could occur and not the speech itself.
Faustin’s case acknowledges that the result she seeks “is contrary to currently governing precedent as set forth by the majority opinion in [the 2000 case],” the suit says. “But for the reasons explained by the dissents in that case and in later Supreme Court precedent, that case was wrongly decided, is irreconcilable with intervening precedent, and has severely ‘distorted First Amendment doctrines.’”
“These laws would have been struck down instantly if they had restricted anti-war protesters or union members on strike outside their employer’s building,” Byron said, who argued there are now effectively “two First Amendments” in the U.S.
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“There’s the real First Amendment that protects your basic civil rights, including free speech, and then there is the other First Amendment that applies to those who advocate the pro-life viewpoint, and it is used to trample their free speech rights,” he said.
Byron said he hopes the precedent set in Canada, where bubble laws have been extended to things such as drag shows, does not trickle down to the U.S., though he worries that such laws could eventually expand to encompass ideologies beyond abortion.
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“Dr. [Martin Luther] King said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and he was right, and that certainly applies to free speech,” he said. “If the free speech rights of Ms. Faustin and others with a pro-life viewpoint can be trampled and set aside, anyone’s can. No one’s rights are secure.”
Source: Fox News