Madsen v. Women's Health Center, Inc.

512 U.S. 753 (1994)


The first injunction issued against Petitioners demonstrating outside an abortion clinic. The situation then escalated. The court found that, despite the initial injunction, protesters continued to impede access to the clinic by congregating on the paved portion of the street leading up to the clinic, and by marching in front of the clinic's driveways. It found that as vehicles heading toward the clinic slowed to allow the protesters to move out of the way, 'sidewalk counselors' would approach and attempt to give the vehicle's occupants antiabortion literature. The number of people congregating varied from a handful to 400 and the noise varied from singing and chanting to the use of loudspeakers and bullhorns. Patients 'manifested a higher level of anxiety and hypertension causing those patients to need a higher level of sedation to undergo the surgical procedures, thereby increasing the risk associated with such procedures.' Those patients who turned away because of the crowd to return at a later date, increased their health risks by reason of the delay. Petitioners picketed in front of clinic employees' residences; shouted at passersby; rang the doorbells of neighbors and provided literature identifying the particular clinic employee as a 'baby killer.' Occasionally, the protesters would confront minor children of clinic employees who were home alone. The state court concluded that its original injunction had proved insufficient. The court amended its injunctive relief order to expand the buffer zone between an abortion protest area and an abortion clinic. It imposed various other restricts relative to the time and manner of protest activities. The Petitioners contend that the law is content-based because it focused specifically on anti-abortion protests in violation of the First Amendment. The Florida Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the trial court's amended injunction. That court recognized that the forum at issue, which consists of public streets, sidewalks, and rights-of-way, is a traditional public forum. It then determined that the restrictions are content-neutral, and it accordingly refused to apply the heightened scrutiny dictated by Perry. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part.