Alabama Pro-Life Advocates Win Free Speech Ruling on Abortion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 5, 2011   |   6:38PM   |   Birmingham, AL

For the last 13 years, law enforcement officials in Birmingham, Alabama have arrested peaceful pro-life activists for praying and sharing the pro-life message on a public sidewalk outside a local abortion business.

But a new legal ruling presents a victory for free speech and a win for the pro-life message.

Until last October, it had been a decade since anyone praying for an end to abortion, distributing  information about abortion alternatives, or providing individual offers of help to women considering abortion could legally do so on the public sidewalks adjacent to the All Women’s Health Center in Birmingham, Alabama. 

“For over ten years, a federal court injunction against a small group of activists had been used by the clinic and the Birmingham police to intimidate others from standing on the adjacent sidewalks,” explains Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ. “Being relegated to a distant sidewalk made effective offers of assistance and information difficult or impossible.”

As reported last year, tired of police arresting pro-life advocates because of a misinterpretation of a federal injunction issued at that time, pro-lifers offered a pro-life witness on the sidewalk even if it meant risking going to prison.

With other national leaders and groups, Rev. Patrick Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition committed to help the pro-life community of Birmingham to win back their right to use the public sidewalks adjacent to the abortion center. Together, these pro-life activists planned a series of prayer vigils and liturgies on the sidewalks.

“When All Women’s Health Center learned of the planned events, and of the possibility that pro-life activists would again use the adjacent sidewalk for prayer, for counseling, and to express opposition to abortion, it filed suit in the Jefferson County Alabama Circuit Court, and succeeded in obtaining a temporary restraining order that prevented the October 21st vigil from going forward as planned,” Sekulow explained.

Mahoney contacted the ACLJ and requested legal assistance.

Together, with local counsel provided by the firm of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, pro-life attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the clinic’s lawsuit on the ground that it was, in essence, an attempt to enforce an inapplicable federal court injunction against individuals who were not defendants in that old federal court case. 

In a written order issued on Tuesday, Judge Ed Ramsey agreed with the pro-life arguments and dismissed the lawsuit against Rev. Mahoney and the Christian Defense Coalition. 

“This outcome represents a significant win in the ongoing battle to protect the constitutional rights of those committed to standing up for life and speaking out against abortion,” Sekulow said.