First Amendment Law Review

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Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

New Blog post!

Abortion Ambiguities Remain Post-FACE Act

by Elizabeth C. Nye

When people think about the abortion debate, they think Roe v. Wade. However, the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe was only the beginning of legislation and controversy surrounding abortion rights. The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, has sparked years of debate and discussion surrounding the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble and protest at—or near—abortion clinics. Namely, some argue that the language of the FACE Act is vague, ambiguous, and infringes upon First Amendment rights. The FACE Act’s failure to define the scope of certain concepts such as “threat,” “intimidation,” and “harassment” makes it difficult to determine what form of language or conduct falls within the right to peaceably assemble.  Through examining the current law, remaining ambiguities within that law, as well as pending legislation, this blog post argues that clarity issues stemming from the FACE Act still exist today. These ambiguities should be resolved by crystallizing the language used in legislation surrounding protests at or near abortion clinics, and by specifying what constitutes “peaceful assembly” under the First Amendment.

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