It is not often that abortion activists get criticized in federal court, what with of all the judges that pro-abortion President Barack Obama appointed to America’s highest courts.
But New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman did this week in his effort to restrict pro-life advocates’ freedom of speech. The state claims pro-life advocates from Church at the Rock in Queens harassed patients and staff outside a Planned Parenthood in the borough.
World News Daily reports U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon was skeptical about Schneiderman’s case Tuesday during a hearing.
Amon, an appointee of President George H.W. Bush, told the pro-abortion attorney general that she could “sue all of you here today” if authorities could bring harassment charges against people for simply being annoying.
She also noted that sidewalks are the “quintessential public forum” and leafletting is a “form of really protected speech.”
Last year, Schneiderman filed a lawsuit to block pro-life advocates from sidewalk counseling outside abortion facilities in the state. He claimed he wants to “limit” physical contact between patients and the pro-life advocates, Townhall reports.
Schneiderman alleged the pro-lifers have harassed people by calling women murderers and pinning them against a wall. In the lawsuit, he also accused pro-lifers of giving women pictures of “mangled fetuses” and trying to block the abortion clinic’s doors.
Lawyers representing the pro-life sidewalk counselors said the state’s claims are “meritless,” and the pro-life advocates reach out to women peacefully, offering information and encouragement.
On Tuesday, the Thomas More Society, which is defending several of the pro-life advocates in the lawsuit, said the judge’s remarks gave them a clue about how she may rule.
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Here’s more from WND:
The hearing this week was on a request to dismiss the lawsuit against protesters who gather outside Choices Women’s Medical Center abortion business.
Thomas More Society Special Counsel Martin Canon said the state’s case seemed to focus on the idea “that harassment should be defined by someone’s reaction.”
“We expect to be vindicated,” said the Rev. Kenneth Griepp, a defendant in the lawsuit and the senior pastor at Church at the Rock. “As a voice for the unborn, we are committed to raising awareness about the over 3,500 children that are being murdered every day here in America. We do so as peaceful people of God.”
Liberty Counsel, which also is representing pro-lifers in the case, said the sidewalk counselors approach women with compassion as they try to persuade them to “change their minds about seeking an abortion by communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
The pro-life legal group said it is clear that Schneiderman has an agenda. During a press conference announcing the lawsuit in June, the pro-abortion attorney general claimed pro-life Christians “run their mouths” with “unlawful, un-American rhetoric,” the group said in a news release. He also referred to pro-life advocates as “anti-choice” in the lawsuit.
“It is obvious Attorney General Schneiderman abhors the Christian, pro-life message of our client and is willing to twist the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act to silence any opposition to abortion,” said Roger Gannam, Liberty Counsel’s assistant vice president of legal affairs, previously. “It is inexcusable for the highest legal officer of the State of New York to declare war on free speech and the pro-life message, and we hope the court will turn back this assault on our most cherished liberties.”
The New York attorney general’s office wants the court to grant civil penalties and damages against 14 people for allegedly harassing abortion clinic staff and patients. The state claims their sidewalk counseling tactics are “horrifying” and “illegal.”
“The law guarantees women the right to control their own bodies and access the reproductive health care they need, without obstruction. We’ll do what it takes to protect those rights for women across New York,” Schneiderman said, previously.
The next major court hearing in the case will take place the week of Feb. 12.