U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo of the Middle District of Pennsylvania turned aside an effort by three abortion opponents to preliminarily enjoin Harrisburg’s “buffer zone” ordinance while their lawsuit against the ordinance is pending. The ordinance, implemented in 2012, bans anyone from congregating, demonstrating, picketing, or patrolling within 20 feet of entrances, exits and driveways of covered health care facilities. The purpose of the ordinance is to promote the health and welfare of patients, health care workers, and protesters outside the City’s health care facilities.
The Women’s Law Project represents several non-party witnesses in the case.
The plaintiffs, three anti-abortion sidewalk protesters, allege that the buffer zone prevents them from distributing anti-abortion pamphlets to people attempting to enter facilities. Judge Rambo denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, and asserted that the plaintiffs came “nowhere close to stating a plausible claim for relief.” In a footnote, Rambo noted plaintiffs’ additional activities included “photographing and shouting at employees and patients of the health care facilities,” “jumping out at employees and patients from behind cars and dumpsters,” and “chanting ‘kill, kill, kill, death, death, death.’”
This preliminary ruling is good news for the City of Harrisburg, and reproductive health care patients and providers.
“We agree that the plaintiffs did not satisfy the burden for a preliminary injunction, and we look forward to vigorously defending what remains of the case,” Frank Lavery, Jr., an attorney representing the City of Harrisburg, told the Legal Intelligencer.
The effort to knock down the buffer zone in Harrisburg is not isolated. As reports of targeted harassment of abortion providers spike in the wake of failed propaganda videos released last year, anti-abortion advocates are continuing efforts to chisel away protective spaces outside of healthcare facilities designed to help shield patients and staff from harassment and intimidation.
The Women’s Law Project is the only public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.