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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Ind. Decisions - "7th Circuit decision favors women's health group over Citilink"

Yesterday's 7th Circuit opinion in Women's Health Link, Incorp. v. Fort Wayne Public Transportation (ILB summary here) is the subject of this story today by Rebecca S. Green in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Some quotes:

An advertisement by a local woman's health group opposed to abortion rights can be displayed inside Fort Wayne's Citilink buses.

That is according to a ruling Wednesday by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling overturns a January order by U.S. District Judge Robert L. Miller that found Citilink was within its rights to prohibit a series of advertisements that Fort Wayne Women's Health Link wanted to put on the city's buses.

"(Citilink's) refusal to allow Health Link's ad to be displayed is an unjustifiable, because arbitrary and discriminatory, restriction of free speech," wrote Judge Richard Posner in the opinion.

Filed two years ago by the Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of Women's Health Link, the lawsuit accused the Fort Wayne Public Transportation Corporation of violating the constitutional rights of the organization by denying it permission to buy a series of small ads to run inside the buses. * * *

Citilink's policy allows public service announcements, but it can reject an ad if it contains false or misleading information or if it "advocates opinions or positions on political, religious, or moral issues," according to court documents.

The woman who submitted the advertisement on behalf of Women's Health Link was on the organization's board of directors and also was communications manager for Allen County Right to Life, according to court documents.

Women's Health Link and Allen County Right to Life share email addresses and a physical address.

According to its official website, "Women's Health Link is a free referral resource in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for women seeking physical, emotional, spiritual or mental health care."

Posner wrote that while it is now known Women's Health Link is pro-life, that is not revealed in the ad, and nothing in Citilink's policies "suggest a concern about what may lie behind an innocuous ad."

The higher court noted that the United Way is permitted to advertise, as are other organizations that urge vaccinations, health care, voting, and other issues.

"What is important is not what other advertisers are permitted to do but that Citilink's ad censorship policy is limited to ad content," Posner wrote. "The content of Health Link's proposed ad lacks the faintest suggestion of a political, religious, or moral aim or agenda." * * *

"Citilink's refusal to post the ad was groundless discrimination against constitutionally protected speech," Posner wrote.

It was unclear Wednesday evening if city attorneys intended to appeal the Seventh Circuit ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 23, 2016 11:54 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions