Judge Revokes Free Speech Rights of Pro-Life Advocates Arrested Inside Abortion Clinic Offering Women Alternatives

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Mar 15, 2018   |   8:15PM   |   Washington, DC

Pro-life advocates who entered a Michigan abortion facility in December may no longer protest outside abortion facilities, a Bloomfield Township judge ruled Wednesday.

The judge also sentenced Monica Migliorino Miller of South Lyon, Robert Kovaly of Hastings, Patrice Woodworth of Minnesota, Will Goodman of Wisconsin and Matthew Connolly of Illinois to 12 months of probation for trespassing and interfering with police during the Dec. 2 incident, The Oakland Press reports.

The five pro-lifers went into the Women’s Center abortion facility in West Bloomfield, Michigan that day to persuade women to choose life for their unborn babies. According to the report, they prayed, sang and offered the women roses and information about alternatives to abortion.

Police said they removed the pro-lifers from the abortion facility after they refused to leave. The pro-lifers later were convicted of trespassing and interfering with police, the report states.

Their lawyer, Robert Muise, said they plan to appeal the ruling because it violates the pro-life advocates’ freedom of speech.

“We were disappointed with the restrictions that are imposed upon their fundamental rights under the First Amendment – the right to free speech and free exercise, and even with that the right of expressive association, where they’re not allowed to engage in peaceful, nonobstructive praying, holding pro-life signs, distributing pro-life literature, providing sidewalk counseling to women in need on public sidewalks outside of abortion facilities all across the United States,” Muise said. “We just think that’s a violation of their constitutional rights.”

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Here’s more from the report:

Four of the defendants, Miller, Goodman, Woodworth and Connolly, all have prior convictions for similar activities. They were sentenced to 12 months probation, must perform community service and ordered to have no contact with each other, the Women’s Center, its staff and its owner, Jacob Kalo, MD. They are also prohibited from picketing any clinic that performs abortion, must stay 500 feet from such a facility unless there for their own medical care or that of a family member, and must pay court costs and fines as well as a to-be-determined amount of restitution to Kalo.

Kovaly, with no prior convictions, drew a lighter sentence of six months probation, community service and court costs and fines – and no restrictions regarding abortion clinics except for staying away from the Women’s Center and those who work there.

Woodworth shared her deeply painful personal experience with abortion just prior to the sentencing, according to the report. As a teenager, Woodworth said she became pregnant and was coerced into aborting her unborn baby. Dealing with her baby’s death afterward was “traumatizing and deeply scarring,” she said in explaining her motivation for trespassing.

“I wish someone had been there to offer me a rose and a message of love, so that I might respond to it,” she said.

Even peaceful illegal activity is controversial among pro-life advocates. Most major pro-life organizations oppose all forms of illegal activities, arguing that the best strategy to save unborn lives and change hearts is to work within the law while working to change the law. However, others contend that, while abortion remains legal, violating the law sometimes is necessary to save babies’ lives.