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Court says ban on abortion protest was unconstitutional

Apr 11, 2012 - The Associated Press

CHEYENNE (AP) -- A state court order that barred abortion protesters from appearing at Jackson's town square last year violated the protesters' constitutional rights, the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

In a lengthy 3-2 decision, the state Supreme Court ruled the temporary restraining order issued by District Judge Timothy Day violated the First Amendment rights of protesters with the group Operation Save America.

Dozens of members of Operation Save America, based in Concord, N.C., descended on Jackson last May with graphic signs of aborted fetuses that they showed around town.

The group said it picked Jackson for its campaign in an effort to make Wyoming the first state in which no doctors would provide abortions. The group targeted a family practitioner whom it said was the only doctor in the state to offer abortions.

The restraining order that Jackson secured from Day last year barred the protesters from appearing within two blocks of the town square. The town's lawyer told Day that city police feared violence if the protesters came together with about 200 Boy Scouts and their families who were gathering for Elkfest, an annual auction of elk antlers.

The protesters weren't alerted beforehand that the town was seeking the court order.

"Assuming the town had established a compelling interest in the protection of its youth and in maintaining the peace, we would nonetheless find the temporary restraining order unconstitutional," Justice Michael Golden wrote for the court majority. "The town has not met its burden of establishing that the temporary restraining order ban was necessary to serve the town's interest and that less restrictive measures would not have been adequate."

Chief Justice Marilyn S. Kite and Justice William U. Hill wrote a dissent saying they believed the case was moot and that the constitutionality question shouldn't have reached the court.

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