BRAY v. ALEXANDRIA CLINIC

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
90-985
Petitioner 
Bray
Respondent 
Alexandria Clinic
Advocates
(Argued and reargued the case for the petitioners)
(Argued and reargued the case for the United States supporting the petitioners)
(Argued the case for the respondents)
(Reargued the case for the respondents)
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Facts of the Case 

Several abortion clinics sued to prevent Jayne Bray and other anti-abortion protesters from conducting demonstrations at clinics in Washington, D.C. The clinics claimed that the protesters had violated 42 U.S.C. 1985(3), which prohibits conspiracies to deprive "any person or class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges and immunities under the laws." The protesters had sought to deny women their "right to abortion" and their right to interstate travel, the clinics argued. The District Court agreed, holding that Bray and others, by blocking access to the clinics, had conspired to deprive women seeking abortions of their right to interstate travel. The District Court also ruled for the clinics on state law trespassing and public nuisance claims, ordering the protesters to stop trespassing on or obstructing access to clinics. Finally, the District Court ordered the protesters to pay the clinics' attorney's fees and costs on the 1985(3) claim.

Question 

Did anti-abortion protesters who obstructed access to Washington, D.C. abortion clinics violate 42 U.S.C. 1985(3) by conspiring to deny women their "right to abortion" or right to interstate travel?

Conclusion 
Decision: 6 votes for Bray, 3 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Reconstruction Civil Rights Acts (42 USC 1985)

No. In a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court held that the protesters had not violated section 1985(3) by obstructing access to the abortion clinics. Justice Antonin Scalia, in the majority opinion, wrote that under the Court's decision in Griffin v. Breckenridge, 403 U.S. 88, there must be a "class- based, invidiously discriminatory animus [underlying] the conspirators' action" for it to violate 1985(3). The clinics' claim that the protesters had demonstrated "animus" toward women as a class was unfounded because the demonstrations were not directed at women but rather were intended to protect the victims of abortion, stop its practice, and reverse its legalization. Opposition to abortion cannot reasonably be presumed to reflect gender-based intent, Justice Scalia wrote, because there are common and respectable reasons for opposing abortion other than a derogatory view of women.

In addition to holding that the protesters did not exercise discriminatory animus, Scalia also addressed the specific rights on which the clinics based their arguments. The right to interstate travel, Scalia pointed out, was not affected here because the protests were carried out entirely within the District of Columbia and were not aimed specifically at interstate travelers. Nor was the "right to abortion" implicated, he wrote, because that right was merely one to be free of governmental interference in the decision. The protesters, acting as private individuals, could not possibly violate that right.

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BRAY v. ALEXANDRIA CLINIC. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 15 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1991/1991_90_985>.
BRAY v. ALEXANDRIA CLINIC, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1991/1991_90_985 (last visited September 15, 2014).
"BRAY v. ALEXANDRIA CLINIC," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 15, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1991/1991_90_985.