SFLA Files Amicus Brief in New York Free Speech Case Where Peaceful Pro-Lifers were Silenced as Others Allowed to Speak 

Caroline Wharton - 29 Aug 2023

SFLA Pens Amicus Curiae Brief in Support of Petitioner in Debra A. Vitagliano v. County Of Westchester, New York    

“Why Should Wearing a Hot Dog Costume to Hawk a Restaurant be treated differently than a Pro-Life Volunteer Offering Mothers Free Resources?” said Students for Life of America’s Kristan Hawkins.  

WASHINGTON D.C. (08-24-2023) – Students for Life of America filed an amicus curiae brief (friend of the court) in the Debra A. Vitagliano v. County Of Westchester, New York case with the Supreme Court of the United States to fight for the Pro-Life Generation’s First Amendment Rights while engaging in free speech on public sidewalks. The question presented in this case is whether the Court should overrule a previous decision in Hill v. Colorado (2000), which banned persons with the intent of “engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling” (read: pro-lifers) from approaching another person within eight feet outside of abortion facilities unless that person consents. The law specifically disallows counseling but permits activities such as wearing a hot dog costume to advertise a restaurant. 

“Everyone should be held to the same standards when peacefully sharing views in public, whether handing out flyers to advertise a restaurant or telling a young mother about free resources. The anti-baby bias of government should not lead to viewpoint discrimination, even among those who disagree on abortion,” said Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins. “Free speech has been a winning issue lately. A Washington D.C. appellate court recently allowed Students for Life of America’s free speech case in Washington D.C. to advance. Our hope is that SCOTUS will continue our winning streak.” 

In the brief, SFLA argues that Hill not only prohibits our life-saving work but unconstitutionally regulates pro-life speech more strictly than other forms of public speech. The brief makes two arguments to why the Supreme Court should overrule its decision in Hill v. Colorado: because its rationale has been superseded (replaced by new law) and stare decisis (a general respect for previous rulings) does not require a court to adhere to Hill.  

“This case is extremely important to SFLA as sidewalk engagement is one of the primary ways our student activists change hearts and minds in order to save preborn children and support vulnerable mothers across the country,” said Hawkins. “It is unconstitutional to penalize people doing the same thing in front of an abortion vendor operation. Why should wearing a Hot Dog costume to hawk a restaurant be treated differently than a pro-life volunteer offering mothers free resources. Both are peacefully speaking in public. Only one is talking about how to save one life and help another.”  

Across the country, SFLA has more than 1,400 groups in middle schools, high schools, colleges/universities, and medical/law schools. If Hill is upheld, it would hold drastic consequences for student activism, much of which is outside in public spaces. 

While SFLA groups have seen free speech issues on campus rise post-Roe with free speech violations tripling in number, SFLA recently won a major free speech victory  in Washington D.C. after the city arrested SFLA staff in 2020 for chalking pro-life messages. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld SFLA’s First Amendment rights, remanding the case, and poignantly stating in their decision

“It is antithetical to a free society for the government to give one side of a debatable public question an advantage in expressing its views to the people …  The government may not play favorites in a public forum—permitting some messages and prohibiting others.” 

To read SFLA’s amicus curiae brief in Debra A. Vitagliano v. County Of Westchester, New Yorkclick HERE.   

To learn more about the state of free speech on campus, read a Daily Wire op-ed by two SFLA students entitled “Is Speech On Campus Really Free? How Pro-Life Views Are Stifled By Universities.”  

For interviews, email [email protected] 


Students for Life Action (SFLAction), a 501c4, along with its 501c3 sister organization, Students for Life of America (SFLA), make up the nation’s largest, pro-life youth organization, managing a political and policy operation engaging Americans of all ages but with a special emphasis on the largest segment of voters — the Youth Vote. Together they provide political, legal, educational, and community support for women and children, born and preborn. Headquartered in Fredericksburg, VA, SFLA serves more than 1,400 groups on middle, high school, college, medical, and law school campuses in all 50 states. SFLA and SFLAction have more conversations with this generation targeted by the abortion lobby than any other pro-life operation in the world, each week reaching more than 4 million across social media platforms and as well as averaging 1.3 million video views. SFLA has also launched multiple initiatives to lead and serve  the future of the pro-life movement including the Campaign for Abortion Free CitiesStanding With You, and the Demetree Institute for Pro-Life Advancement . Over more than 17 years, President Kristan Hawkins has grown SFLAction/SFLA and the Pro-Life Generation into a nearly $20M organization, now preparing for an abortion-free America. 

Share this post