Pro-Life Advocate Arrested in Bubble Zone Abortion Case Sees Charges Lifted
by Steven Ertelt
August 3, 2010
Chicago, IL (LifeNews.com) — The pro-life graduate student arrested in a case that drew national attention to the plight of pro-life advocates losing their free speech outside abortion centers, saw charges filed against him by the city of Chicago under its new bubble zone law dismissed.
The case of Joe Holland received national press when a Fox News report focused on how he was arrested merely for praying in front of a Chicago-area Planned Parenthood abortion business.
As LifeNews.com 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.
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.
This afternoon, the Thomas More Society, the pro-life law firm helping Holland, secured a dismissal of all charges against him under the ordinance, which 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.
"We are pleased that the City of Chicago has dismissed these false and baseless charges against Joe Holland," said Peter Breen, the group’s director and legal counsel.
He told LifeNews.com: "The First Amendment protects prayer on a public sidewalk in Chicago the same as in any other city in the country. We hope that the city will cease the suppression of pro-life speech under the ‘bubble zone’ ordinance and dismiss the lone remaining case, brought against David Avignone, who was arrested a few days after Joe."
Avignone was arrested the same week as Holland and his first court appearance is August 30.
The city council approved the new last October and pro-life groups say it targets those who provide women abortion alternatives. The new bubble zone law subjects pro-life advocates to a $500 fine for merely talking to women considering abortion outside an abortion facility.
"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.
According to witnesses and video taken of the incident, Holland was engaged solely in prayer activity and not in leafleting, picketing or "sidewalk counseling."
Related web sites:
Thomas More Society – https://www.thomasmoresociety.org
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