Pro-Life Advocate Defies Obama Anti-Free Speech Lawsuit

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 14, 2011   |   1:07PM   |   Washington, DC

An elderly pro-life man is defying a lawsuit the Obama administration has filed against him to stop him from providing abortion alternatives information to women outside a Planned Parenthood in the nation’s capital.

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. It has filed a lawsuit claiming Retta is  one of “the most vocal and aggressive anti-abortion protestors.” 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.”

The Obama administration is 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.

But the Daily Caller reports today that the lawsuit is not deterring Retta — he continues to spend each Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday at the Planned Parenthood abortion business in the District of Columbia offering help and support for women considering abortions.

“Well, we will give them some literature and offer them alternatives to abortion. We will let them know about the health care available and how we can help them,” Retta told TheDC. “Different types of medical help, food help, and we will talk to them about different financial help they need. We have different things available, so we tell them about that.”

“I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m just, you know, practicing my First Amendment rights,” Retta told TheDC. “And I have a right to offer women information, as long as it’s in a safe manner.”

Retta, is who in his 70s, has been offering the help since 1998 and he is getting free legal help in his case from the ACLJ, which has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. It currently awaits a response in court from the Obama administration.

Jim Henderson, a senior attorney with the ACLJ told the conservative news website that Retta is allowed to provide abortion alternatives to women as he normally does while the litigation moves forward.

“The Justice Department has not asked for, and the court has not granted, an injunction governing the activities in front,” he said, adding that the ACLJ will fight for Retta’s First Amendment rights should the court not dismiss the lawsuit.

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.”

Brad Mattes of Life Issues Institute says Retta is not as the Obama administration portrays him.

“Richard’s crime is that he walks alongside women on the sidewalk outside a Planned Parenthood abortion mill. He gently offers them hope that they can carry their babies to full term and save these innocent children from the deadly claws of the abortion industry,” he said.

“The handling of Richard Retta by the DOJ is a stark contrast to their dismissal of a recent New Black Panther voter-obstruction case in 2008. The pro-abortion Justice Department—an irony in itself—appears to consider peaceful sidewalk counselors more of a physical threat than men armed with night sticks who intimidate voters outside a polling place,” he added. “Despite the DOJ’s efforts to silence sidewalk counselors like Richard with misconduct allegations, the work of these good people cannot go unnoticed. Along with other volunteers, Richard’s faithful stand for life and hope is estimated to have helped over 1,300 women change their minds about aborting their babies. He and the many other pro-lifers who stand in the gap to protect America’s unborn children and their mothers deserve our gratitude, not political harassment.”

This 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.