Recently, in Madsen v. Women's Health Center, the United States Supreme Court evaluated the constitutionality of an injunction that had completely prohibited antiabortion protestors from coming within a thirty-six foot "speech-free" buffer zone around an abortion clinic. Petitioners, Judy Madsen, Ed Martin, and Shirley Hobbs, are officers of Rescue America and members of Operation Rescue. The predominant goal of these two antiabortion, activist organizations is to shut down abortion clinics throughout the country. Respondents, Women's Health Center, Inc., Aware Woman Center for Choice, Inc., EPOC Clinic, Inc., and Central Florida Women's Health Organization, Inc., operate abortion clinics throughout central Florida. The crusade against the Aware Woman Center for Choice, Inc. ("Aware Women") of Melbourne, Florida and numerous other abortion clinics in central Florida was mounted by Operation Rescue in 1991 shortly after the arrival of Operation Rescue's newest office in central Florida. Picketing and demonstrating by antiabortion protestors led Women's Health Center to ask a Florida state court to enjoin Operation Rescue and others from engaging in certain activities against Aware Women, its patients and staff. On October 25, 1991, the court entered a temporary injunction. Women's Health Center requested and received long-term relief in the form of a permanent injunction almost a year later, on September 30, 1992. Despite the permanent injunction, protestors continued to impede access to the clinic by congregating on the street leading up to the clinic and marching in front of the clinic's driveways. Roughly six months later, after scores of complaints by Women's Health Center and extensive evidentiary hearings, Robert B. McGregor, a Seminole County trial judge, amended the inadequate permanent injunction. He concluded that prior orders had "proved insufficient 'to protect the health, safety and rights of women in Brevard and Seminole County, Florida, and surrounding counties seeking access to [medical and counseling] services.'" This modified injunction prohibited a broader array of antiabortion protest activities and, consequently, drew significant from Operation Rescue. The Florida Supreme Court heard Operation Rescue's challenge in Operation Rescue v. Women's Health Center, found the injunction content-neutral, applied intermediate scrutiny, and upheld the amended injunction. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit heard a separate challenge for the same injunction in Cheffer v. McGregor shortly before the Florida Supreme Court announced its decision in Operation Rescue. The Court of Appeals, however, found the injunction content-based, applied heightened scrutiny, and struck down the injunction. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari to resolve the tension between the Florida Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals over the appropriateness of Judge McGregor's amended state court injunction. Chief Justice Rehnquist, writing for a majority of the Court, upheld the establishment of a thirty-six foot "speech-free" buffer zone around the public property portions of Aware Woman.
Griggs, Richard A.
"First Amendment Facelift?: Rehnquist Court Crafts New Scrutiny Level for Content- Neutral, Speech Restricting Injunctions in Madsen v. Women's Health Center,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 46:
3, Article 9.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol46/iss3/9