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Pro-Life 'Sidewalk Counselors' Lose 'Bubble Zone' Appeal

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

When walking into or out of a medical facility in Chicago, the law prohibits others from coming within eight feet of that person to distribute literature or protest. The law has been dubbed the "bubble zone" law because it creates a bubble around the individual entering or exiting the facility that protesters cannot invade.

So-called pro-life "sidewalk counselors" challenged the Chicago law on the basis that it violated their First Amendment rights. But both the federal district court and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agree that, as precedent stands, the challenge is without merit.

Abortion Bubble

The bubble zone law is a clear response to the protests outside clinics and hospitals that provide abortion services. And while prohibiting assembly and general protesting might be too much, given the sensitive nature of medical privacy, a law that prohibits protesters from approaching individuals seeking medical services just seems narrowly tailored to ensure everyone's interests are protected.

The appellate court said as much in deciding the Price v. Chicago case, finding that Chicago's bubble zone law met intermediate scrutiny as it was facially neutral and had reasonable time, manner, and place restrictions. 

Notably though, the Seventh Circuit concluded by recommending the challengers seek SCOTUS review as it was ultimately bound by the Hill v. Colorado case.

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