New York Attorney General Trying to Deny Pro-Life People Free Speech Outside Abortion Clinics

State   |   Tom Ciesielka   |   Sep 20, 2017   |   12:55PM   |   Albany, NY

The Thomas More Society attorneys are defending a group of peaceful pro-life advocates from Queens against New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman in a federal lawsuit that accuses them of threats and violence against abortion clinic patients. Last week the Thomas More Society filed a motion to dismiss the New York Attorney General’s lawsuit. The motion argues that the lawsuit is without merit because it is actually an assault on the First Amendment rights of pro-life sidewalk counselors

According to Thomas More Society General Counsel Andrew Bath, “Most of these pro-life advocates are members of the Church at the Rock in Queens,” he stated. “As life-affirming Christians, they peacefully counsel women who are considering having an abortion. They conduct themselves reasonably and compassionately and offer information about abortion alternatives to those willing to listen.”

Schneiderman’s lawsuit, filed in June, was reputed to seek an end to what he charged is “a weekly pattern of threatening, obstructive and violent activity by a network of anti-abortion protesters at Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, New York.”

Of the fourteen pro-life counselors that Schneiderman has singled out, ten attend Church at the Rock. The congregation has been witnessing for life outside of the abortion facility weekly since 2012. In June 2016, Schneiderman initiated a yearlong investigation, claiming to have received “complaints of the protesters’ extremely aggressive behavior.” He called the church members efforts to offer support and alternatives to women considering abortion and to advocate for the rights of the unborn, “horrifying” and “illegal.” However, in five years, there have been no arrests and not a single citation.

Martin Cannon, Thomas More Society Special Counsel, explained that the accusations in Schneiderman’s lawsuit are unfounded, provide no particulars, and are composed of random claims that site no dates, times or circumstances.  “The AG’s alleged pattern of violence and vitriol on the part of these peaceful pro-life advocates is without basis. In fact, Schneiderman’s unwavering allegiance to abortion rights may have colored his judgment in this case, as there is not one documented and verified instance of the force, threat of force, physical obstruction, or following and harassing, of which he has accused our clients.”

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The Thomas More Society supports the motion to dismiss the charges that Schneiderman has thrust upon the pro-life defendant for reasons, including:

  • The Attorney General has no standing to act “on behalf of the people” as his vocal adherence to the cause of abortion renders him unable to distinguish the State’s interests from those of the Choices clinic and its wealthy abortionist owner.
  • FACE, or the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances act, is unconstitutional by its very nature of censoring content in violation of the First Amendment rights to free speech.
  • Schneiderman’s application of FACE is faulty, particularly targeting pro-life speech and seeking to punish those who hold a pro-life worldview.
  • The alleged “weekly pattern of threatening, obstructive and violent activity” is insufficiently demonstrated and any standard of proof for Schneiderman’s accusations has not been presented.

Schneiderman’s legal action seeks to create a 16-foot buffer zone around the abortion business premises at Choices, as well as punish the pro-life advocates by forcing them to pay damages, penalties, costs and the state’s attorneys’ fees.

As a nonprofit public interest law firm, the Thomas More Society is vested in upholding the rights of free speech. Bath concluded, “These peaceful pro-life advocates have been exercising their right to free speech – which includes the freedom to share information on abortion alternatives- even if Mr. Schneiderman doesn’t like it. The New York Attorney General’s lawsuit seeks to deny our clients their fundamental First Amendment rights and is without factual or legal basis. We will vigorously defend our clients’ right to continue to peacefully deliver a pro-life message to abortion-minded women on the public sidewalk. This is why we are seeking a dismissal of the State of New York’s meritless attempt to deny our clients the rights guaranteed them by our Constitution.”

Read the Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss by Griepp Defendants submitted to the United States District Court – Eastern District of New York in People v. Griepp et al by Thomas More Society attorneys here [].