Madsen v. Women's Health Center, Inc., 512 U.S. 753 (1994)

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certiorari to the supreme court of florida

No. 93-880. Argued April 28, 1994—Decided June 30, 1994

After petitioners and other antiabortion protesters threatened to picket and demonstrate around a Florida abortion clinic, a state court permanently enjoined petitioners from blocking or interfering with public access to the clinic, and from physically abusing persons entering or leaving it. Later, when respondent clinic operators sought to broaden the injunction, the court found that access to the clinic was still being impeded, that petitioners' activities were having deleterious physical effects on patients and discouraging some potential patients from entering the clinic, and that doctors and clinic workers were being subjected to protests at their homes. Accordingly, the court issued an amended injunction, which applies to petitioners and persons acting "in concert" with them, and which, inter alia, excludes demonstrators from a 36-foot buffer zone around the clinic entrances and driveway and the private property to the north and west of the clinic; restricts excessive noise-making within the earshot of, and the use of "images observable" by, patients inside the clinic; prohibits protesters within a 300-foot zone around the clinic from approaching patients and potential patients who do not consent to talk; and creates a 300-foot buffer zone around the residences of clinic staff. In upholding the amended injunction against petitioners' claim that it violated their First Amendment right to freedom of speech, the Florida Supreme Court recognized that the forum at issue is a traditional public forum; refused to apply the heightened scrutiny dictated by Perry Ed. Assn. v. Perry Local Educators' Assn., 460 U. S. 37, 45, because the injunction's restrictions are content neutral; and concluded that the restrictions were narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest and left open ample alternative channels of communication, see ibid.

Held: 1. The injunction at issue is not subject to heightened scrutiny as content or viewpoint based simply because it restricts only the speech of antiabortion protesters. To accept petitioners' claim to the contrary would be to classify virtually every injunction as content based. An injunction, by its very nature, does not address the general public, but applies only to particular parties, regulating their activities, and perhaps their speech, because of their past actions in the context of a spe-


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