Pro-Lifer Arrested for Praying at Planned Parenthood Gets National Focus

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 2, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pro-Lifer Arrested for Praying at Planned Parenthood Gets National Focus

by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 2
, 2010

Chicago, IL ( — The case of Joe Holland has received national attention with a Fox News report making the rounds on the Internet today focusing on how this college student was arrested merely for praying in front of a Chicago-area Planned Parenthood abortion business.

As reported last week, Holland is the first pro-life person charged under the new bubble zone law in Chicago that local citizens say has robbed them of their free speech rights outside abortion centers.

The city council approved the new last October and pro-life groups say it targets those who provide women abortion alternatives.

Holland, a Northwestern University graduate student, was praying the rosary on a public sidewalk outside the Planned Parenthood Near North abortion facility on July 3 when staff called the police, claiming that he had violated the new ordinance.

"I was just standing by the building praying the rosary and one of the Planned Parenthood volunteers came up to me and started yelling at me that I needed to move 8 feet away, but the thing is I didn’t actually approach anyone; I was just standing by the building and the building doesn’t actually have a bubble," Holland told Fox News.

The pro-life college student said he never responded to the Planned Parenthood volunteer or any other abortion center officials or anyone entering the abortion business.

"I tried to talk to the officer first and explain that the building doesn’t have an 8-foot bubble and that I didn’t talk to anyone," Holland said. "I said, ‘I’m praying, I’m praying to God, not talking to people’ and basically he said me praying was a type of approaching people and violated the bubble zone ordinance."

Fox News also interviewed Chicago police spokesman Roderick Drew, who said, according to a police report, Holland "stood within an inch of the victim, prayed out loud at a high volume for over 10 minutes."

"The offender refused two requests to move, and continued to block customer access to the establishment after being asked to clear the entrance by the person in charge of the facility," he said.

The "Bubble Zone" ordinance prohibits approaching within eight feet of a person without their consent "for the purpose of passing a leaflet or handbill to, displaying a sign to, or engaging in oral protest, education, or counseling."

The law establishes a 50-foot buffer outside the entrances of abortion centers and, within that zone, no one can come within an 8-foot zone to distribute literature, counsel or display a sign.

But according to witnesses and video taken of the incident, Holland was engaged solely in prayer activity and not in leafleting, picketing or "sidewalk counseling."

Peter Breen, Thomas More Society executive director and legal counsel, said he is glad Fox News brought national attention to what is happening in Chicago.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for the public to see how ridiculous the Chicago ‘Bubble Zone’ and its enforcement really are," he said.

Breen will appear tomorrow morning on FOX & Friends, the Fox News national morning show, along with Holland.

The Thomas More Society is also representing David Avignone, the second arrestee under the "Bubble Zone" ordinance. Holland’s next appearance is August 3, and Avignone’s first appearance will be August 30.

The new bubble zone law subjects pro-life advocates to a $500 fine for merely talking to women considering abortion outside an abortion facility.

“This sort of peaceful and lawful conduct on public sidewalks in front of abortion clinics is protected by the First Amendment," Breen told previously. "This is not about safety," he said. "It’s about shutting down a means of protest. We don’t want to sue our hometown, but we will if this measure is passed."

Related web sites:
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