The U.S. Supreme Court voted 8 to 1 February 19 to strike down a federal judge's ban of protests within 15 feet of any person or vehicle entering or leaving abortion facilities.
However, the Court upheld U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara's ban on demonstrations within 15 feet of abortion facilities themselves. Justices also concurred with the western New York judge's order that protesters cease communicating with a client if she tells them to stop. Both of those votes were 6 to 3.
Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, which represented the protesters, hailed the decision as "a tremendous victory for free speech."
Operation Rescue workers, however, say the ruling will not change their methods. "It has no effect, because the Supreme Court is not supreme," says Flip Benham, president of the organization. "No matter what the Supreme Court does, we're going to do what we have to do."
Benham says the "cease and desist" rule, which forces protesters to stop communicating with clients when asked, means pro-lifers will yell near women rather than talk with them.
"It's patently absurd that a Christian would see this decision as a victory," he says.
The case, Schenck v. Pro Choice Network, included protesters with Operation Rescue and the Pro-Life Network of Western New York.1