The Obama administration’s targeting of peaceful, law-abiding pro-life advocates for prosecution for supposedly violating a national law by helping women find abortion alternatives is meeting with support from the biggest abortion business.
As LifeNews has reported, the Obama administration is continuing to go after pro-life people who provide abortion alternatives information to women outside abortion facilities. They are going after one elderly man for stepping on a woman’s shoe and breaking the strap.
Maryland resident Richard Retta has been accused of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act by doing nothing more than exercising his First Amendment rights when he presents information to and talks to women considering abortions. For more than 10 years, he has helped women heading to the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington abortion center find the kind of alternatives the abortion business never provides.
But the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division sees the gentle man as some sort of terrorist and it has filed a lawsuit claiming Retta is one of “the most vocal and aggressive anti-abortion protesters.” 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.”
In a new interview with NPR, Ellen Gertzog, director of security for Planned Parenthood calls this a good thing.
“There’s been a substantial difference between this administration and the one immediately prior,” she says. “From where we sit, there’s currently much greater willingness to carefully assess incidents when they occur and to proceed with legal action when appropriate.”
Sharon Levin, a vice president at the National Abortion Federation, admits there has been a “relatively low level of extreme violence” at abortion facilities in recent years, but she also applauds the Obama administration for targeting peaceful pro-lifers.
Justice Department spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa told NPR that the crackdown on peaceful pro-lifers somehow doesn’t abridge their free speech rights and said the Obama administration takes “seriously our responsibility to enforce FACE fully and fairly and in a manner that does not infringe on any First Amendment rights.”
“The department has stepped up civil rights enforcement across the board, and will continue to vigorously enforce all the laws under its jurisdiction, including the FACE Act,” she said.
But that’s not stopping it from squashing Retta’s free speech rights as Obama officials are 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.
The government, which has a different view on what constitutes free speech, says Retta “attempted to, and did, by physical obstruction, intentionally intimidate or interfere with persons because they were or had been providing or obtaining reproductive health services, or in order to intimidate such persons from providing or obtaining reproductive health services at the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington.”
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.”
Retta is not the first pro-life person the Obama administration has been accused of targeting. It went after another man, David Hamilton, earlier this year.
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, providing women outside abortion centers with alternatives information, and peaceful protesting or picketing.