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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 12, 2000

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Communications Department
202-667-5881

District Court Hands National Abortion Federation a Decisive Victory in Lawsuit against Atlanta Transit Authority

NAF Hopeful MARTA Will Now Run NAF's Public Service Ads

Washington, DC -- The National Abortion Federation (NAF) today applauded the court's recent decision in NAF's lawsuit against the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). "With this decisive ruling, the court has sent a clear message to MARTA that it cannot infringe on our constitutional right to free speech," said Vicki Saporta, Executive Director of NAF. "We are hopeful that MARTA will do the responsible thing and run our ads, so that women in Atlanta will have access to the same information as other women across the country."

The case, National Abortion Federation v. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, was filed in April of last year, after NAF tried unsuccessfully to run its public service campaign on Atlanta buses, subway cars, and bus shelters. NAF was informed that MARTA's advertising policy allowed it to reject any advertising supporting or opposing a subject of "public controversy." In the lawsuit, NAF claimed that MARTA had violated NAF's first amendment right to free speech.

"With this decision, the court has unequivocally supported our claim," said Saporta. She explained, "U.S. District Judge Charles A. Pannell has found that MARTA has been inconsistent in applying its advertising policy." For example, MARTA has accepted other public interest ads on subjects that might be considered controversial, such as AIDS awareness and racial and religious tolerance.

"The court also ruled that MARTA does not have a compelling state interest in violating NAF's right to free speech." MARTA had argued, among other things, that the NAF ads could result in violence against the transit riders or the staff of MARTA. Saporta stated, "Not only have we run the ads in numerous other cities without incident, but several transit systems have asked us to re-run the ads. We have also received phone calls on our Hotline from women who saw the campaign and were grateful that they were able to access accurate information about abortion."

The decision also found that MARTA's advertising policy is on its face unconstitutional, because it is vague and overly broad. U.S. District Judge Charles A. Pannell wrote, "For example, under the definition of 'public controversy' contained in MARTA's advertising policy, a MARTA official could reject ads promoting the Atlanta Braves. The Braves are widely reported on by the local media and they certainly arouse strong feelings in a great number of people."

"The court has sent a message loud and clear: it is unconstitutional to censor advertising about a legal medical procedure," said Saporta.

The National Abortion Federation's public service campaign focuses on the close to half of American women who will choose abortion, and the dedicated physicians who face many obstacles to provide this care safely to them. The campaign also features NAF's toll-free Hotline number, 1-800-772-9100. The Hotline is the only one in the country that provides accurate, unbiased information about abortion and referrals to qualified abortion providers.

The campaign has run in a total of 11 cities since it was launched in March, 1999: Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington, DC. It is also scheduled to go up in additional cities this year.

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The National Abortion Federation is the professional association of abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to ensuring that abortion remains safe, legal and accessible.
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