Women’s Health Link v. Fort Wayne Public Transportation Corp.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Description:  The city of Fort Wayne’s public transportation company refused to accept an ad from a life-affirming health care referral service for women in need. Citilink denied Women’s Health Link’s request simply because its website contains information on “controversial issues,” the city-run company says.


7th Circuit: City unconstitutionally denied ad for Indiana women in need

ADF attorneys represent Women’s Health Link in Fort Wayne bus ad case
Wednesday, June 22, 2016

 
CHICAGO – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled Wednesday that the bus system of Fort Wayne, Ind., unconstitutionally refused to accept an ad from Women’s Health Link, a life-affirming health care referral service for women in need.

ADF attorneys filed a federal lawsuit in April 2014 against Citilink for denying the ad because the city-run bus company said the referral service’s website contains information on “controversial issues.” In February, ADF attorneys appealed a district court’s decision in Women’s Health Link v. Fort Wayne Public Transportation Corp. to uphold the bus company’s ban.

“A government shouldn’t be censoring ads from a group like Women’s Health Link when it is running nearly identical ads from other groups, such as The United Way. The 7th Circuit’s decision rightly understands that the First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all people, regardless of their political, moral, or religious views,” said ADF Senior Counsel Theriot, who argued before the 7th Circuit earlier this month. “The city of Fort Wayne’s bus system has a responsibility, like all other government entities, to ensure equal access to community advertising forums that it creates.”

Women’s Health Link is a free referral resource for women seeking physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental health care. In November 2013, Women’s Health Link asked to place advertising cards in the interior of Citilink’s buses that contained a picture of a young woman and the tagline “You’re Not Alone” along with the center’s contact information.

The ad is virtually indistinguishable from a United Way ad and health-related government ads that Citilink approved. ADF attorneys argued that the bus system unconstitutionally prohibited Women’s Health Link’s ad because of its life-affirming ideology and association with a pro-life group.

The 7th Circuit’s decision recognized that Women’s Health Link’s ad “complies fully with the conditions set forth in Citilink’s rules” and found that the ad “is a public service announcement that does not so much as hint at advocating or endorsing any political, moral, or religious position… Yet the district judge granted summary judgment in favor of Citilink. He shouldn’t have.”

Thomas M. Dixon, with Dixon, Wright & Associates, P.C., is local counsel in the case on behalf of Women’s Health Link.
 
  • Pronunciation guide: Theriot (TAIR’-ee-oh)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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Additional resources: Women’s Health Link v. Fort Wayne Public Transportation Corp.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Previous news releases:

  • 2016-06-01: ADF to 7th Circuit: City unjustly denied ad for Indiana women in need
  • 2016-02-04: ADF appeals decision against bus ad aimed at Indiana women in need
  • 2016-01-05: Court says bus system can ban ad aimed at Indiana women in need
  • 2015-05-08: ADF to court: City unjustly denied ad for Ind. women in need
  • 2014-07-11: ADF to court: City can’t discriminate against referral service for women in need
  • 2014-04-08: Ind. referral service for women in need too ‘controversial’ for city buses

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