Price v. Chicago, No. 17-2196 (7th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Pro-life “sidewalk counselors” sued to enjoin Chicago’s “bubble zone” ordinance, which bars them from approaching within eight feet of a person within 50 feet of an abortion clinic if their purpose is to engage in counseling, education, leafletting, handbilling, or protest. They argued that the floating bubble zone was a facially unconstitutional content-based restriction on the freedom of speech. The district judge dismissed the claim, relying on the Supreme Court’s 2000 decision (Hill), which upheld a nearly identical Colorado law against a similar First Amendment challenge. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Abortion clinic buffer-zone laws “impose serious burdens” on core speech rights but under Hill, a floating bubble zone is not considered a content-based restriction on speech and is not subject to strict judicial scrutiny. The ordinance is classified as a content-neutral “time, place, or manner” restriction and is tested under the intermediate standard of scrutiny;Hill held that the governmental interests at stake—preserving clinic access and protecting patients from unwanted speech—are significant, and an 8-foot no-approach zone around clinic entrances is a narrowly tailored means to address those interests. The court noted that Hill’s content-neutrality holding is hard to reconcile with subsequent Supreme Court decisions, but those decisions did not overrule Hill, so it remains binding.