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Madsen v. Women’s Health Center, Inc

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 22 Ill.512 U.S. 753, 114 S. Ct. 2516, 129 L. Ed. 2d 593 (1994)

Brief Fact Summary. The Petitioners, Madsen and other abortion protesters (Petitioners) regularly protested the Respondents, the Women’s Health Center and other abortion clinics (Respondent), in Melbourne, Florida. The Respondents then sought and was granted, by a Florida trial court, an injunction on several grounds, restraining the Petitioner’s ability to protest, which was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court. The Petitioner’s appeal to the United States Supreme Court (Supreme Court) claiming that the injunction restricted their rights to free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution).

Synopsis of Rule of Law. Elements of an injunction limiting free speech will be upheld if they burden no more speech than necessary to eliminate the unlawful conduct targeted. But, if the provisions sweep more broadly than necessary to accomplish the permissible goals of the injunction the injunction will be invalidated.


Facts. The Petitioners protest abortion clinics run by Respondents. The Petitioners picketed and demonstrated where the public street gives access to the clinic. The Petitioners have been permanently enjoined by a Florida court from blocking or interfering with public access to the clinic and from physically abusing persons entering or leaving the clinic. Six months later, the Respondents sought to broaden the injunction, complaining that the Petitioners still impede potential patients. The trial court then issued a broader injunction, for which the Petitioners challenge as a violation of their First Amendment constitutional rights. The Amendment injunction prohibits the Petitioners from entering the premises of the Respondents, blocking or impeding access to the Respondents’ premises, from picketing and demonstrating or entering a portion of public right of way or private property within 36 feet of the property line of the Clinic, from causing excess noise from 7:30 am to noon Monda
y thru Saturday when procedures and recovery periods occur, from physically approaching or causing noise within 300 feet of any of the Respondents’ employees homes, from harassing anyone trying to gain access Respondents’ clinic, from displaying certain objectionable images and from inciting others to commit any of these prohibited acts. Upon appeal the Florida Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the injunction, causing the Petitioners to appeal.

Issue.
Whether the State has a significant state interest enabling it to restrict the Petitioners’ First Amendment constitutional rights?
Whether the 36 foot buffer zone around the clinic entrances and driveway are constitutional restrictions on the Petitioners’ First Amendment constitutional rights?
Whether the 36 foot provision as applied to private property around the clinic is a constitutional restriction on the Petitioners’ First Amendment constitutional rights?
Whether the noise prohibition provision of the injunction is a constitutional restriction on the Petitioners’ First Amendment constitutional rights?
Whether the images observable prohibition is a constitutional restriction of the Petitioners’ First Amendment constitutional rights?
Whether the 300-foot no approach zone around the clinic and residences is a permissible restriction of the Petitioners’ First Amendment constitutional rights?

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