The U. S. Supreme Court announced on Monday that it has denied a request to review a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision that upheld the constitutional rights of pro-life activists to display graphic photos of aborted babies on the public streets in California. The Supreme Court’s decision cements a victory for the Thomas More Law Center and the pro-life cause.In July 2008, court observers were stunned when a unanimous 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court decision and held that pro-life activists had a constitutional right to display large graphic photos of aborted babies on the public streets adjacent to the Dodson Middle School in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. The case involved a 75-minute police detention of two members of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, Inc. (CBR), a California-based pro-life organization. The CBR members had been driving a box-body style truck that displayed large photos of first-term aborted babies on its sides.
School officials and the LA County Sheriff’s Department claimed that the photos were “disruptive” in violation of a California penal statute. The Ninth Circuit ruled that deputy sheriffs violated the pro-lifers’ First Amendment right to Free Speech and their Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable police seizures when they halted the peaceful demonstration.
In the opinion, which was written by Judge Harry Pregerson, who is considered by many to be one of the most liberal judges in the Ninth Circuit, and supported by Judges William A. Fletcher and Marsha S. Berzon, the Court ruled that “the government cannot silence messages simply because they cause discomfort, fear, or even anger.” Click here to read the entire opinion.
The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, brought the case on behalf of CBR. The mobile billboard truck is part of CBR’s effort to expose as many people as possible to the horrors and realities of abortion.
Robert Muise, trial counsel for the Law Center who handled the case, commented on the decision, “This is a tremendous victory for the First Amendment and the pro-life movement. The Supreme Court’s decision leaves the Ninth Circuit’s ruling undisturbed, ensuring that there is no double standard for pro-life speech and affirming the fundamental principle of the First Amendment that government officials cannot prohibit silent, peaceful, non-obstructive, political speech on the public streets simply because certain listeners or viewers find the speech offensive.”