The local Planned Parenthood abortion facility in the nation’s capital has filed a lawsuit against a peaceful pro-life advocates who works to provide abortion alternatives information to women.
Maryland resident Richard Retta has exercised his First Amendment rights for more than 10 years when he presents information to and talks to women considering abortions. He provides help to women heading to the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington abortion center find the kind of alternatives the abortion business never provides.
Last year, the Obama administration filed a lawsuit claiming Retta is one of “the most vocal and aggressive anti-abortion protestors.” How so? The Obama administration claims, “On one occasion, defendant walked so closely to a patient that he stepped on the patient’s shoe and broke the shoe strap.”
Although the nicest pair of high heels may set someone back hundreds of dollars, the Obama administration is suing Retta for $10,000 for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, and is ordering him to pay compensatory damages of $5,000 each to three supposed victims of Retta handing out information and telling women to not have an abortion.
Now, according to a CBS News report, Planned Parenthood has sued and is claiming he physically blocked a woman from entering the clinic, shouting at her not to kill her baby.
As a result they sued Retta over last year’s incident, using a 1994 law that makes it a crime to intimidate or interfere with someone obtaining reproductive health services. He is one of a handful of people nationwide charged every year under the law. Lawyers for the government and Retta have a meeting before a judge Thursday to see if they can come to an agreement in the case, but it’s unclear how likely that is.
“They’d like to get rid of me,” said Retta, who acknowledges he’s persistent and assertive with his message but denies ever blocking access to the clinic.
His standard practice, he says, is to approach with the greeting, “Morning, ma’am, can I give you some information?”
Then, walking with them, he might say “if you’re pregnant, we have help for you” or “abortions are dangerous, women can die.” He may offer one of several anti-abortion fliers. He says he has 15 or 20 seconds to get his message out before the women get inside the clinic. But if they take a flier, sometimes they’ll read it inside and come out, he said. Other times they stop to talk.
“It’s very rewarding,” Retta said of the times when a pregnant woman decides to leave. In those cases he gives her a gift: a pair of baby booties.
Although Planned Parenthood claims Retta is intimidating, he says its officials and volunteers with the abortion business who aren’t as respectful.
He says he’s also often jostled by volunteers who stand on the sidewalk wearing tops that say “pro-choice clinic escort.” Their job is to ensure access for anyone who wants to visit the clinic, whether it’s to get an abortion or other services including gynecological exams, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases or contraception.
Retta’s lawyer, Jim Henderson, denies in court documents that Retta blocked the woman from entering the clinic. She had approached Retta for help, he wrote, and volunteers were leading her into the clinic against her wishes. He said Retta didn’t shout or yell but said to the woman, “don’t let them force you to have an abortion,” a statement protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Henderson said in a telephone interview Wednesday that the Justice Department under President Barack Obama seems to have an increased interest in litigating similar cases, with a four others filed in 2011 but none between 1999 and 2006, according to government statistics.
“These are all political cases as far as I can tell,” Henderson said.
Tina Korbe, of the conservative blog Hot Air, commented on the case and said the characterization of the Obama administration is at odds with those who know Retta personally.
“Those who know Dick Retta describe him as a peaceful, prayerful man, who regards his sidewalk counseling outside the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington as a ministry. Retta even conducts weekend training sessions to encourage other pro-life advocates to stand outside the facility to offer words of hope, encouragement and possibility to the young women who come and go from the abortion center,” she writes. “At these training sessions, one attendee says, he specifically emphasizes that the point of sidewalk counseling is not to block access, but, instead, to remind pregnant women that they do, in fact, have a choice other than abortion — and to offer post-abortion healing, as well, as few abortion centers prepare women for all of the possible emotional consequences of their decision.”
“But perhaps nothing attests to Retta’s warm and compassionate nature so much as the influence he has been able to have on the women he counsels as he walks side-by-side with them. Some estimate that, over the past 14 years or so, Retta’s words have resulted in more than 1,000 “saves,” what members of the pro-life movement call the change of heart that leads a pregnant mother to choose to have her child,” Korbe added. “Retta also patiently endures the antipathy of those who aren’t receptive to his message. Just last week, by one account, a woman entering the clinic pepper-sprayed Retta. Yet, Retta persists in his work because he’s seen what a positive difference it makes.”
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This is not the first pro-life person the Obama administration has been accused of targeting. It went after another man, David Hamilton.
The Obama administration’s lawsuit came months after it partnered with leading pro-abortion organizations to host an FBI training seminar with the main focus of declaring as “violent” the free speech activities of pro-life Americans.
On August 25, 2010, the FBI and the United States Department of Justice co-sponsored a training seminar with Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation and the Feminist Majority Foundation.
When information about the seminar, which took place at FBI headquarters in Portland, Oregon, reached pro-life advocates, they asked officials for permission to attend and were granted access to the seminar and the training materials.
FBI and Obama administration officials provided participants with an 84-page document entitled “Resource Guide: Violence Against Reproductive Health Care Providers” that contained print copies of Power Point presentations prepared by the Justice Department and an analysis of alleged pro-life “violence” prepared by the pro-abortion groups.
The so-called violence perpetrated by pro-life advocates mostly contained examples of constitutionally-protected free speech, including activities such as praying, and providing women with information.
More recently, the Obama administration has been forced to pay a pro-life advocate it targeted with a lawsuit $120,000 and it has dropped its case against the Florida woman helping women find abortion alternatives.