Supreme Court Justices may ultimately decide whether Pro-Lifers have First Amendment rights in this shocking case

Senate Democrats, CC BY 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

The attacks on Pro-Life activists are ramping up every day.

And even state governments are getting in on the action to stop Pro-Lifers from exercising their Constitutional rights.

But now Supreme Court Justices may ultimately decide whether Pro-Lifers have First Amendment rights in this shocking case.

This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether to hear a case that challenges a New York law that says Pro-Life “sidewalk counselors” outside abortion mills can be arrested simply for approaching women to discuss alternatives to abortion.

Undoing bad precedent 

If at least four Justices agree to take up the case, the court could finally undo decades of precedent that some past Justices, and many legal scholars, have said “distort[s] First Amendment Doctrines.” 

The case in question is Vitagliano v. County of Westchester and is the result of a challenge to a law passed by Westchester County, New York, last year in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson.

The Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade and sent the question of abortion back to the 50 states to decide.

While many states immediately passed strong Pro-Life legislation, other leftist states began passing everything from abortions until birth (and even after), to restrictions on free speech to shut down Pro-Life groups. 

The Westchester, NY law made it illegal to approach within eight feet of another person in public anywhere near abortion mills for the purpose of engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling, unless the other person gives explicit consent. 

In other words, if you are Pro-Life, your First Amendment rights are null and void.

Debra Vitagliano is a Catholic sidewalk counselor who says she feels “called to be a compassionate voice to abortion-vulnerable women, letting them know that they are loved, supported, and can choose life for their babies.” 

Last year, in response to the anti-First Amendment law, she sued the county.

Recognizing the inherent worth of all people

Vitagliano is an occupational therapist who works with special-needs children.

She says her work has led her “to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of all people, no matter their level of functioning.” 

And, consistent with her Catholic faith, she opposes abortion, believing it is the deliberate taking of innocent human life, according to her petition to the Supreme Court.

She also happens to volunteer as a “life consultant” at a local pregnancy resource center.

In this capacity she meets with women who are experiencing unplanned pregnancies and discusses options and available resources other than abortion.

Vitagliano also serves as a sidewalk counselor advising women of their options.

This is now illegal in Westchester County, so she has sued.

Unfortunately, Vitagliano has lost in the lower courts because those judges have, in their rulings, cited a 2000 Supreme Court case, Hill v. Colorado, that upheld the same type of law with the bizarre reasoning citizens should be protected from “unwanted speech.” 

Free speech for anyone who’s not Pro-Life

But lawyers for Vitagliano argue that the case should be overturned and presented the High Court with a clear opportunity to do just that. 

“On the day it was decided, members of this Court recognized that Hill stands ‘in stark contradiction of the constitutional principles [the Court] appl[ies] in all other contexts’ outside abortion,” the court document says, quoting a dissent to that case from the late Justice Antonin Scalia. 

It also points out that now-retired Justice Anthony Kennedy’s dissent said Hill “contradicts more than a half century of well-established First Amendment principles.”

The document also cites the Dobbs opinion, which stated that “Hill was a ‘distort[ion]’ of ‘First Amendment doctrines.’”

Hopefully the High Court will take up this case, and finally restore the First Amendment for all Americans, not just the Left. 

Pro-Life Press will keep you up-to-date on any developments to this ongoing story.