Abortion Clinic Loses Battle to Silence Pro-Lifer Standing Outside Helping Women Find Alternatives

State   Tom Ciesielka   Jun 29, 2019   |   10:31AM    Allentown, Pennsylvania

The Thomas More Society has achieved victory for a peaceful pro-life sidewalk counselor who was charged with violating the FACE (Freedom of Clinic Access) Act for his  regular witness and sidewalk counseling outside of an Allentown abortion facility. Federal Judge Chad F. Kenney ruled from the bench on June 27, 2019 that the charges were unsubstantiated and that the abortion facility did not show a reasonable likelihood of proving that life advocate Mark Bogunovich violated the federal law that prohibits preventing clinic access.

The Allentown Women’s Center abortion clinic had accused Mark Bogunovich and other sidewalk counselors of  physically obstructing access to the clinic as well as “threatening, harassing, and insulting employees” in a lawsuit filed against them on Thursday, April 11, 2019, in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The charges levied against the life advocates were supported by several abortionists and facility staff whose accusations were delivered anonymously under pseudonyms – Dr. Roe, Nurse Executive Doe, Employee Number 1, Escort Smith and Escort Stiles.

Thomas More Society attorney Thomas Olp, who represented Bogunovich along with local counsel Joe Stanton, commented on the victory, “The complaint was driven by the Allentown Women’s Center desire to cleanse its entrances of pro-life speech by asking the court to impose a 25-foot buffer zone on each side of the clinic’s entrances. Of  course, the effect of that would be to destroy the ability of pro-life counselors to communicate effectively with abortion minded women through passing literature to them and oral counseling and education. The Complaint is a rather brazen attempt to use the FACE Act to abridge First Amendment rights.”

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Olp continued, “The clinic’s theory is that even the momentary presence of a vehicle in the driveway voluntarily stopping to listen to pro-life speech is a ‘physical obstruction’ prohibited by FACE.  The court properly rejected this, recognizing that Mark Bogunovich has a First Amendment right to be in the public right of way, and cars have a right to stop if they wish to receive literature and engage in speech with him. The evidence showed that Bogunovich did not stand in front of vehicles or keep them from proceeding forward.  No unreasonably difficult or hazardous condition was created by his actions, meaning there was no basis to enjoin it or impose a buffer zone to keep him off the clinic entry way.”

The suit is the latest in a long-running series of legal actions by the abortion center against pro-life advocates, who have embroiled Hanover Township and Colonial Regional Police Department in the battle. Notably, in 2014, the abortion facility supported discriminatory permit requirements that resulted in a lawsuit over violation of the First Amendment rights of the sidewalk counselors.  That resulted in resolution affirming the rights of pro-lifers to stand on the public right of way at the clinic.

Read the Memorandum in Support of Defendant Mark Bogunovich’s 12(B)(6) Motion to Dismiss, as filed by the Thomas More Society on May 28, 2019, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Allentown Women’s Center, Inc. v. Dunkle et al, here