Pro-Life Woman Wins Legal Protection From Abortion Activists Who Assaulted Her

State   |   Tom Ciesielka   |   Sep 8, 2022   |   11:50AM   |   Nashville, Tennessee

On August 26, 2022, the Thomas More Society won an important victory on appeal when a unanimous Tennessee Court of Appeals vacated the ruling of a Tennessee trial court that had denied Erika Schanzenbach, a pro-life advocate and sidewalk counselor, the protection she is entitled to by law against the brazen assaults of abortion clinic escorts. Thomas More Society attorneys are representing Schanzenbach in her lawsuits that seek protection orders against four radical pro-abortion “escorts” who have repeatedly stalked and threatened her outside of a Bristol, Tennessee, abortion business.

The Court of Appeals held that the trial court failed to state sufficient findings of fact or sufficient legal conclusions to support its ruling against Schanzenbach. It thus vacated the trial court’s rulings and remanded for further proceedings in that court.

“This is a good interim victory for Ms. Schanzenbach, a true hero on the front lines of peacefully and prayerfully ending abortion in this country,” Thomas More Society Counsel Michael McHale said. “It is rare for an appellate court to disturb a lower court’s denial of a protection order, but here the Court of Appeals plainly saw that the trial court needed to better analyze the facts and law before it could deny protection to Ms. Schanzenbach. Her case involves the most egregious harassment we’ve seen of a pro-lifer anywhere in the country.”

McHale is co-counsel in the case alongside Thomas More Society Senior Counsel Martin Cannon, a national expert on pro-life sidewalk advocacy legal issues.

The Sullivan County Chancery Court denied the requested protection after a full-day trial in August 2020, despite unrebutted video evidence showing the four respondents repeatedly harassing and stalking Schanzenbach outside the Bristol abortion facility. The harassment included closely following Schanzenbach back to her car, which was parked nearly a football field away from the facility. She was surrounded and blocked from view with large, open umbrellas. Her harassers licked her arms; blared police siren bullhorns in her face, stole and destroyed her leaflets, blew in her ear, shadowed her on the public right-of-way outside the abortion venue, and hurled profanities, taunts, and obscene gestures directly in her face, all without any police intervention.

Follow LifeNews on the MeWe social media network for the latest pro-life news free from Facebook’s censorship!

The Thomas More Society appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, submitted eight briefs (divided over four cases), and presented consolidated oral arguments, which resulted in four separate unanimous opinions and judgments – one for each of the four radical pro-abortion stalkers from whom Schanzenbach is seeking protection.

The Court of Appeals highlighted the Thomas More Society’s argument that the Michigan Court of Appeals recently upheld a protection order under an identical Michigan statute in a reverse scenario where a pro-life advocate was accused of stalking an abortion worker in a public lot near a facility. The Tennessee Court of Appeals observed that in the Michigan case, the life advocate “was no longer seeking to share his political viewpoint” but was instead “antagonizing an individual” who “repeatedly told respondent that he was scaring her and to get away from her.” Thus, the conduct there had “moved from advocacy to threatening conduct” and “was not constitutionally protected.”

“The only difference between that case and Ms. Schanzenbach’s is that she’s pro-life, and the harassment and abuse she’s suffered is far, far worse, as we pointed out to the Tennessee Court of Appeals,” McHale said. “Obviously, no person should be treated less favorably under the law simply because they hold pro-life views. We believe the Court of Appeals recognized this problem in vacating the trial court’s decisions and sending the cases back for further proceedings.”

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 pointed a bullhorn blaring loud police siren sounds directly into Schazenbach’s face, at the risk of causing permanent hearing damage.

The Bristol, Tennessee, abortion facility where Schanzenbach was repeatedly harassed has since shut down, as Tennessee law now prohibits most abortions in the wake of the June 2022 Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Schanzenbach continues to pray and advocate for the lives of unborn babies and their mothers at the abortion business owner’s new facility, just a mile away in Bristol, Virginia, where the abortion is legal. The Thomas More Society attorneys will continue to see to it that Schanzenbach is protected by law from the respondents’ abusive conduct.

Along with Cannon and McHale, Schanzenbach is also represented by local counsel Andrew Fox.

Video documentation of some of the harassment endured by Schanzenbach is publicly available online at:, and

“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. “The appellate court has remanded Ms. Schanzenbach’s lawsuit back to the Chancery Court to get it right. We expect it to do so, by protecting her to the full extent of the law.”

Read the rulings by Judge John W. McClarty, Judge Thomas R. Frierson, and Judge Kristi M. Davis, below:

  • Erika Jean Schanzenbach v. Denise Skeen

  • Erika Jean Schanzenbach v. Althea Skeen

  • Erika Jean Schanzenbach v. Rowan Skeen

  • Erika Jean Schanzenbach v. Cheryl Hanzlik

Read more about the Thomas More Society defense of Erika Schanzenbach here/