‘Unconstitutional’: Lawsuit challenges Colorado laws targeting pro-life speech near abortion clinics

News & Politics

Colorado’s governor and several Colorado officials are facing a lawsuit over content-based free speech restrictions around abortion clinics, the Center Square and other outlets reported.

“The government may not target life-affirming speech simply because it disagrees with the message. That is unlawful viewpoint discrimination. It should not be a crime to lovingly and compassionately approach another person to tell them about alternatives to abortion,” First Liberty Senior Counsel Roger Byron said in a statement.

Wendy Faustin, represented by First Liberty and Cooper & Kirk, PLLC, filed the lawsuit over Colorado’s law and local ordinances that establish buffer zones around abortion clinics that punish people for engaging in certain forms of speech.

The law criminalizes approaching a person within a buffer zone outside an abortion clinic to offer counseling or advocate for pro-life causes. The buffer zone is a 100-foot radius from entryways into clinics. Within that radius, people are barred from approaching others within eight feet to distribute literature, display signs, educate, or counsel, as First Liberty explains.

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Faustin’s attorneys say these laws were adopted with the intent targeting pro-life speech in particular. They say that targeting disfavored speech in such a manner is unconstitutional on its face as blatant viewpoint discrimination.

“The First Amendment presumes it is unconstitutional for the government to restrict a private citizen’s expression because of ‘its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content.’ The laws imposed by Colorado and Denver favor one message over another. That’s unconstitutional,” said Charles Cooper, Chairman and Founding Partner at Cooper & Kirk, PLLC, as quoted in First Liberty’s statement.

According to her attorneys, Faustin has been active in the pro-life movement for more than 40 years, and regularly speaks with woman outside abortion facilities encouraging them to choose life. They say Faustin’s sincerely held religious beliefs compel her to advocate on behalf of the unborn. That advocacy includes helping women considering abortion by counseling them on alternatives to abortion.

“Ms. Faustin feels she is called by God to defend the unborn in any way that she can and that one of the most effective ways of doing so is by peacefully approaching women entering abortion clinics to try to educate them about the nature of the unborn child developing inside them and inform them about alternatives to abortion,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit goes on to say that Faustin “continues to regularly and actively speak peacefully and compassionately to women entering abortion clinics to the limited extent those laws allow.”

Faustin’s lawsuit was filed June 1 in the U.S. District Court of Colorado. The suit names Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D), Colorado Attorney General Philip J. Weiser (D), 18th Judicial District District Attorney John Kellner (R), Englewood Police Department Chief Sam Watson, the city and county of Denver, 2nd Judicial District District Attorney Beth McCann (D), Denver City Attorney Kerry Tipper (D), and Denver Police Department Chief Ron Thomas.

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