The Law School Authority

Madison v. Women’s Health Center, Inc. Case Brief

Summary of Madison v. Women’s Health Center, Inc., 512 U.S. 753 (1994)

Facts: Pet are anti abortion protestors who want to hold their protests outside certain FL clinics.  At times they vary in number from a handful to 400 and usually protest from across the street.  Respn operate clinics.

Issue(s): Whether a state court injunction restricting expressive speech of abortion protestors outside of an abortion clinic is UnConst’l?

Holding: In part, but content neutral injunction must not burden more speech than necessary to serve Significant GI.

Procedure: First FL st ct enjoined blocking or interfering with public access to clinics and from physicially abusing people entering or leaving. 6 mos later Respon sought to broaden restrictions b/c access was still be impeded by Pets activities. Trial Ct found Pet cont’d to impede access by gathering in street, marching in front of clinic driveway’s, singing and chanting with loudspeakers and bullhorns, and stopping approaching cars.  Granted Pet motion and Amended Injunction enjoining Pets from entering clinic property; blocking or interfering w/ ingress and egress; congregating or picketing or entering portion of prop w/i 36 feet of clinic; from 7:30 a.m. to Noon M-Sat no singing or chanting or amplification; not physically any person approaching w/i 300 feet of clinic or gathering w/i 300 ft of any clinic employee; Fl Sup Ct Affirmed; U.S.S.Ct. Affirmed in Part, Reversed in Part.

Rule(s): 1st and 14th

Rationale: New injunction was warranted b/c evidence shows a disregard and cont’d violations of prior court order.  S/S does not apply to the injunction b/c Injunction is different from Legis act.  Injunction is a remedy against specific harm by specific individuals or group. Legislation is directed at the general public.  This law would target the same activity regardless if it concerned abortion or not.

To determine Content Neutrality: Did Govt adopt Reg of speech w/o reference to content of regulated speech–at the start LOOK to Govt’s purpose.

Govts purpose here is to prevent violations of Ct order, not bar group ideology. Thus, the injunction incidentally hits the group’s viewpoint and does not require more scrutiny.  Content neutral.  Group can express their views anywhere except the 36 ft buffer.

When evaluating content neutral court order, T, Pl, and Manner Analysis is not sufficiently vigorous. Instead, challenged provisions must not burden more speech than necessary to serve a Significant GI.  LOOK at each provision and apply this standard.

36 ft burdens no more speech than necessary to protect the free access of patients and staff.

Private Prop Inclusion in 36 ft overly burdens more speech b/c no evidence that Pets activities obstructed access. Noise control is important interest near hospitals and medical centers, this restriction does not overly burden more speech than necessary.  Images a blanket ban on observable images overly burdens more speech than necessary b/c the drapes can be drawn or look away.  Phys Approach people w/i 300 ft overly burdensome b/c too large area.  300 ft buffer zone against loud sounds overly burdensome–police can make them turn it down.

Pl’s A: (Pets) Ct order restricts only the content or viewpoint speech of anti abortion protestors–this requires the Injunction to be evaluated under S/S.


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