Judge Rules State Can’t Stop Pro-Lifers From Reading Bible Outside Abortion Clinic

State   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Dec 4, 2019   |   2:42PM   |   Des Moines, IA

Iowa pro-life advocates won a legal victory this fall when a federal judge ruled in favor of their right to free speech outside of abortion facilities in the state.

Anthony Miano and Nicholas Rolland, both of Davenport, are pro-life advocates who stand outside Planned Parenthood and other abortion facilities in Iowa to be a voice for unborn babies. They stand on the public sidewalks, read aloud from the Bible, preach and speak to people walking in and out of the abortion facilities.

In 2018, they challenged a state law that prohibits “loud and raucous noise in the vicinity of any residence or public building which causes unreasonable distress to the occupants thereof,” according to the American Center for Law & Justice, a well-known pro-life Christian legal group, which represented them.

The AP reports U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger ruled in the pro-life advocates’ favor on Sept. 26. Then on Monday, she ordered the state to pay $130,000 for legal fees for Miano and Rolland, according to the report.

“This is an important victory for our clients, for pro-life advocates and the unborn, and for free speech,” the ACLJ responded.

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The pro-life preachers challenged the law after Miano was prosecuted for a violation “just for spreading a message of hope and peace outside abortion clinics,” according to the ACLJ.

They argued that the state law violated the First Amendment by restricting the public from commenting on important issues like abortion.

“In essence, these individuals were threatened with a prosecution for engaging in protected speech outside of an abortion clinic,” ACLJ Director of Policy Professor Harry Hutchison said. “We challenged the constitutionality of the Iowa law which makes it a misdemeanor to make a loud and raucous noise in the vicinity of any residence or public building which causes unreasonable distress to the occupants, thereof.”

In September, the federal judge agreed that the law was unconstitutionally vague and violated free speech rights, the AP reports.

Pro-life advocates called Ebinger’s ruling a victory for free speech.

“Essentially, this law was unconstitutionally vague, and second, dependent on the reaction to third parties,” Hutchinson said. “We’re happy to report that the judge found in favor of our clients on the merits. Essentially the statute was declared unconstitutional.”