Like many cities across the country, Fort Wayne, Indiana raises money through advertisements that it sells on the inside and outside of the buses it operates. And like many cities, Fort Wayne has a number of regulations on the content of those ads. Most of these regulations are uncontroversial – think of prohibitions on images or descriptions of violence, for example. A ban on ads that “express or advocate opinions or positions upon political, religious, or moral issues,” however, opens the door to problems.
Such an issue came before the Seventh Circuit in Women’s Health Link, Inc. v. Fort Wayne Public Transportation Corp., No 16-1195 (7th Cir. June 22, 2016). Health Link sought to display an ad with the picture of a young woman and the phrases “You are not alone.” and “Free resource for women seeking health care,” along with a phone number and a website address. The ad did not express any opinion on any “political, religious, or moral issues,” but Fort Wayne learned that Health Link was a pro-life organization that suggests alternatives to abortion for women with unplanned pregnancies and refused to allow the ad.