Americans United for Life urges the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Hill v. Colorado, a grievous decision in conflict with Dobbs and the principle of American pluralism

Americans United for Life filed an amicus brief Thursday in support of the plaintiff in Vitagliano v. County of Westchester. The plaintiff, 64-year-old Debra Vitagliano of Westchester County, New York, is a sidewalk counselor who sought to educate women on abortion and inform them of alternatives. Westchester County, encouraged by the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2000 case Hill v. Colorado, passed a law in June 2022 prohibiting sidewalk counselors from engaging in education and counseling. 

The brief explains that Americans possess a constitutional right under the First Amendment to advocate in a public forum on the alternatives to abortion, to counsel mothers considering abortion for their child, and to witness to the humanity of preborn persons. AUL’s brief in Vitagliano clarifies that Hill conflicts with the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

Sidewalk counselors provide last-minute, life-saving support and education to mothers seeking abortion. In 2000, Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, said in his Hill dissent that because of the wrongly decided case, “‘Uninhibited, robust, and wide open’ debate is replaced by the power of the state to protect an unheard-of ‘right to be let alone’ on the public streets.” A generation later, the majority opinion in Dobbs cited Hill as one of many abortion cases taken up by the Court that has “distorted First Amendment doctrines.” 

“As Roe made it difficult to enact any legislation protecting women and preborn children,” said Carolyn McDonnell, Litigation Counsel, “it also interfered with the democratic process and created an abortion distortion that warped other legal doctrines. The Supreme Court should overturn the wrongly decided Hill case to restore the right of all Americans to engage in public discourse about alternatives to abortion.” 

Hill not only silenced sidewalk counselors’ protected speech,” said Danielle Pimentel, Policy Counsel, “but it has also harmed women and girls, especially those experiencing coercive abuse, by preventing sidewalk counselors from discussing abortion alternatives, the procedure’s risks, and available resources.”