Pro-life advocates in Bristol, Tennessee are under attack, and the Thomas More Society is intervening on their behalf. In January 2020 the not-for-profit national public interest law firm helped file multiple petitions for orders of protection against members of a radical pro-abortion organization.
The offenders have harassed and threatened numerous pro-life individuals outside of the Bristol Regional Women’s Center abortion facility in recent months. The aggressors have recently directed their attacks on Erika Schanzenbach, a peaceful pro-life witness and sidewalk counselor. Now, with the help of the Thomas More Society, Schanzenbach is fighting back, going to court to get protective orders against her most egregious abusers.
Thomas More Society Counsel Michael McHale explained that the offenders have often sought out Schanzenbach for harassment wherever she stands, even when she remains across the street from the abortion facility to avoid confrontation. The offenders subject Schanzenbach to a variety of abuses, including surrounding her and blocking her from view with large, open umbrellas; licking her arms; following her very closely wherever she walks – even back to her vehicle hundreds of feet away from the abortion facility; stealing and destroying her leaflets; and hurling profanities, taunts, and obscene gestures directly in her face.
“These actions are blatantly illegal, and they are unacceptable in a civilized society,” McHale said. “Everyone has the right to peacefully advocate their beliefs on public streets and sidewalks without being bullied into silence. While we continue to ask local authorities to stop this illegal abuse, we are eager to help Ms. Schanzenbach secure some measure of relief in civil court.”
These abusers boast online about their illegal conduct, identifying themselves as “Pro-Choice Bristol.” Their Facebook-posted “Pink Manifesto” states that they will “use any means necessary to physically block” pro-life witnesses “from sight” and will do “anything at all not being enforced equally for the protection of patients whether demonstrably legal or not.” The radical group also declares that “When local government fails” it will “step in.”
Schanzenbach has been on the receiving end of harassment, abuse, and stalking by Denise Skeen, along with Denise’s adult daughters, Alethea and Rowan. Each is named as a respondent in petitions for court orders of protection. Also named is Cheryl Hanzlik, who on multiple occasions has attempted to cause permanent hearing damage by pointing a bullhorn blaring loud police siren sounds directly into Schazenbach’s face. Supplemental court complaints have also been filed against Hanzlik and Alethea Skeen for ongoing illegal harassment.
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Along with McHale, Schanzenbach is also being represented by Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Martin Cannon and local counsel Andrew Fox. After the initial January 2020 court hearing, the cases will return to court in April 2020. At that time Schanzenbach’s legal team will present substantial video evidence and live witness testimony demonstrating the ongoing abuse against her.
“Ms. Schanzenbach has been terrorized while exercising her freedom to peacefully express her opinion,” McHale declared. “She has been stalked, threatened, and frightened, while attempting to share life-affirming alternatives with abortion-minded women – something that she is fully within her Constitutional rights to do,” he added. “We expect the court to protect Ms. Schanzenbach to the full extent of the law.”