New York City pro-life advocates asked a court to dismiss a lawsuit by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that could chip away at their freedom of speech.
The lawsuit involves pro-lifers from Rock Church who stand outside the Choices Women’s Medical Center, an abortion clinic in Jamaica, Queens.
Schneiderman said he wants to “limit” physical contact between patients and the pro-life advocates, Townhall reports. He claims the pro-lifers have harassed people by calling women murderers and pinning them against a wall. In the lawsuit, Schneiderman also accuses pro-lifers of giving women pictures of “mangled fetuses” and trying to block the abortion clinic’s doors.
But lawyers representing the pro-life sidewalk counselors say Schneiderman’s claims are “meritless,” and the pro-life advocates reach out to women peacefully, offering information and encouragement.
WND News reports the pro-life advocates filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit this month.
Liberty Counsel, which is representing the pro-lifers, said the sidewalk counselors approach women with compassion as they try to persuade them to “change their minds about seeking an abortion by communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The pro-life legal group said it is clear that Schneiderman has an agenda. During a press conference announcing the lawsuit in June, the pro-abortion attorney general claimed pro-life Christians “run their mouths” with “unlawful, un-American rhetoric,” the group said in a news release. He also refers to them as “anti-choice” in the lawsuit.
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“It is obvious Attorney General Schneiderman abhors the Christian, pro-life message of our client and is willing to twist the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act to silence any opposition to abortion,” said Roger Gannam, Liberty Counsel’s assistant vice president of legal affairs. “It is inexcusable for the highest legal officer of the State of New York to declare war on free speech and the pro-life message, and we hope the court will turn back this assault on our most cherished liberties.”
The New York attorney general’s office wants the court to grant civil penalties and damages against 14 people for allegedly harassing abortion clinic staff and patients. He claims their sidewalk counseling tactics are “horrifying” and “illegal.”
“The law guarantees women the right to control their own bodies and access the reproductive health care they need, without obstruction. We’ll do what it takes to protect those rights for women across New York,” Schneiderman said, previously.
Andrew Bath, general counsel at Thomas More Society, which also is representing the pro-life advocates, said Schneiderman’s claims are “meritless,” and emphasized that they are defending pro-lifers rights to peacefully protest abortion and educate women about their unborn babies.
“The New York Attorney General’s suit seeks to deny our clients their fundamental First Amendment rights and is without factual or legal basis,” Bath said in a statement in June. “We will vigorously defend our clients’ right to continue to peacefully deliver a pro-life message to abortion-minded women on the public sidewalk, and will seek dismissal of the State of New York’s meritless attempt to deny our clients the rights guaranteed them by our Constitution.”