Maryland life advocates will return to the sidewalks to proclaim their life-affirming message and pray outside of a Hagerstown abortion provider after intervention by the Thomas More Society. On April 22, 2020, the city of Hagerstown officially backed down from its previous restrictions on pro-life speech on public sidewalks, ensuring that Maryland citizens can continue their pro-life witness during the COVID-19-prompted stay-home Executive Order.
The not-for-profit national public interest law firm sent a letter on April 14, 2020, to the city’s mayor and police chief after Hagerstown police threatened pro-life advocate Wanda King with a $5,000 fine for being present on the public sidewalk outside the local abortion facility. The city’s response stated that King and others could return to the public sidewalk on the condition that they maintain social distancing and have no more than 10 people – and that they continuously walk around the large city block where the abortion facility is located.
The Thomas More Society sent a second letter to the city explaining why such a requirement is unconstitutional. When the city failed to respond, the Thomas More Society sent municipal officials a draft lawsuit and demanded a final response, prompting the Hagerstown to finally back down and agree that the life advocates do not have to continuously walk around the block in order to engage in pro-life free speech on the public sidewalk.
“We are pleased that Hagerstown authorities have recognized and corrected their previously erroneous view of our clients’ constitutional rights to free speech and free exercise of religion,” stated Michael McHale, Thomas More Society Counsel. “As long as abortion vendors continue to put women and children at risk – even during a state of emergency when all other elective procedures are banned – there will be a need for Ms. King and other life advocates to be near the abortion facility offering hope and information on life-affirming alternatives to abortion.”
“Even by its own terms, the Maryland Stay Home Order permits religious and spiritual gatherings of the kind our clients engage in if they have 10 or fewer people,” explained McHale. “At the same time the Maryland Department of Health has demanded the cessation of all elective and non-urgent medical procedures through the duration of the catastrophic COVID-19 health emergency. Almost all abortions are elective, yet the Hagerstown abortion facility continues to operate with impunity and without regard to such limitations. This selective enforcement of parts of Maryland’s orders to stop the spread of COVID-19, threatening Ms. King and other pro-life advocates while turning a blind eye to the elective abortion procedures occurring just yards away, was unlawful.”
“The city of Hagerstown has conceded, agreeing that our clients can engage in pro-life free speech outside the abortion facility as long as they maintain social distancing, and have no more than 10 people while Maryland is under its current state of emergency,” added McHale.
McHale noted that it took the threat of the lawsuit to get the Hagerstown to back off on its requirement that the life advocates be forced to continuously walk around the large city block in order to engage in pro-life free speech.
LifeNews depends on the support of readers like you to combat the pro-abortion media. Please donate now.
“The city attorney has informed us that henceforth the Hagerstown will not enforce the order against Wanda King and her fellow life advocates if they abide by the social distancing requirements and keep their gathered numbers at 10 or below as long as COVID-19 restrictions remain in place,” detailed McHale. “Now our clients can engage in pro-life speech and prayer outside of the abortion vendor, which continues to operate with impunity despite a state health order requiring that all health care facilities cease and desist from performing elective procedures like abortion during this state of emergency.”
Read the second letter sent to Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, Chief of Police Paul Kifer, City Attorney Jason Morton, and City Administrator Scott Nicewarner, all of Hagerstown, Maryland, on April 17, by the Thomas More Society here [https://www.thomasmoresociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Reply-Letter-April-17-2020.pdf].
Read the initial April 14, 2020, letter sent to Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, Chief of Police Paul Kifer, and City Attorney Jason Morton, all of Hagerstown, Maryland, by the Thomas More Society here [https://www.thomasmoresociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Demand-Letter-to-Hagerstown-MD-City-Officials-April-14-2020.pdf].