Pregnancy Center Wins Another Battle Against New York’s Bid to Shut It Down

State   CeCe Heil   Feb 7, 2014   |   4:42PM    New York, NY

A pro-life pregnancy center has secured another victory in an ongoing fight against an intrusive, pro-abortion witch hunt carried out by New York State, whose governor recently declared that pro-life citizens “have no place in the state of New York.”

Our client, The Evergreen Association, Inc., (Evergreen), operates many crisis pregnancy centers in New York and has been very effective in combating abortions in New York City for over 27 years. Last year, Attorney General Schneiderman, who has close ties to pro-abortion organizations such as NARAL, issued a subpoena to Evergreen demanding numerous documents concerning Evergreen’s internal affairs, corporate structure, operating procedures, personal information concerning all its personnel, including volunteers, literature, advertising and advocacy statements.

pregnancycenters14The subpoena is not based upon any evidence indicating a pattern of unlawful conduct by our client. Rather, the subpoena is quite similar to one sent to our client in 2002 which was later withdrawn because there was no basis for an investigation. We filed a motion to quash the subpoena because it lacks any basis in fact or law, is overly broad in its scope, and violates Evergreen’s rights protected by the First and Fourth Amendments.

Although a lower court ordered Evergreen to comply with the subpoena, we immediately filed an appeal and requested a stay of enforcement of the subpoena while the appeal is pending. Our brief noted that New York courts apply a “demanding” test, requiring “a strong and probative basis for investigation,” when a subpoena implicates First Amendment rights. The law dictates that “the Attorney General does not have an ‘arbitrary and unbridled discretion as to the scope of his investigation,’” nor can he use subpoenas “for a fishing expedition to ascertain the existence of evidence.”

Additionally, in light of the New York governor’s recent comments about pro-life citizens, our use of the following quote from the United States Supreme Court is especially appropriate:

Abuses of the investigative process may imperceptibly lead to abridgment of protected freedoms. The mere summoning of a witness and compelling him to testify, against his will, about his beliefs, expressions or associations is a measure of governmental interference. And when those forced revelations concern matters that are unorthodox, unpopular, or even hateful to the general public, the reaction in the life of the witness may be disastrous.

Last month, a judge from the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, Second Department granted a temporary stay. However, this stay would only last until a larger panel of judges had time to consider whether to grant a stay that would be effective for as long as it takes for the appeal to be heard and decided.

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On February 6, four judges considered and granted our motion for a stay, which will protect our client’s rights throughout the appeal process. We are hopeful that the court will ultimately recognize that the subpoena is unlawful and violates our clients’ rights but, at least until a decision is ultimately reached, our client’s rights will be protected by the stay.

LifeNews Note: CeCe Heil is a Senior Counsel for the ACLJ specializing in public policy and global legal matters including the United Nations. Heil is a 1992 graduate of Regent University School of Law. She is admitted to practice in California, Missouri and Tennessee.