Vitals Reporting on the pro-life movement

A victory for pro-life sidewalk counselors

Abortion | Judge rules against Queens, N.Y., abortion center’s claims of harassment and obstruction
by Samantha Gobba
Posted 7/23/18, 05:24 pm

Pro-life sidewalk counselors may continue praying, preaching, and handing out literature in front of a Queens, N.Y., abortion center, a federal judge ruled on Friday.

The case began last June when former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed suit, charging the counselors with harassment, physical obstruction, and threats of violence against women seeking abortions at Choices Medical Clinic and the volunteers escorting them to the door. (Schneiderman’s office carried on with the lawsuit after his resignation in May over sexual assault allegations.)

“To the contrary, the record as a whole suggests that the defendants have endeavored to toe the line between lawful and unlawful conduct,” U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon wrote in a 103-page opinion. She refused to grant a preliminary injunction against the 13 counselors.

“We thank the Lord that our life-affirming work to counsel women considering abortion was upheld in federal court,” Kenneth Griepp, senior pastor at the Church at the Rock in Brooklyn, said in a statement. He added that the group of sidewalk counselors “will continue to offer compassion to those who see abortion as the only way out of an unexpected pregnancy.”

Martin Cannon, attorney with the Thomas More Society, argued in court that the suit violated the sidewalk counselors’ First Amendment rights. He told me that the state’s accusations of force or threats of force were based on incidents initiated by the facility’s volunteer escorts. When a counselor struck up a conversation with a woman on her way to the door, a group of escorts would crowd the woman away from the pro-life advocate. That produced incidental brushing of shoulders and other interactions, but not harassment.

“The sidewalk counselor is still trying to call out to her, maybe trying to hand her a pamphlet. That’s what’s supposed to be this harassment,” Cannon said. The pro-lifers, he said, “are out there just to offer assistance to women. And it’s not just empty words. They have little babies running around in their church and in their homes that have sprung from that sidewalk. They really put their money where their mouth is, and they don’t harass people.” Cannon added, “The case was an abuse of the rights of peaceful New York citizens.”

Amon tossed out much of the state’s evidence and several testimonies, calling them “unreliable.” The lawsuit claimed that counselors Ranville Thomas and Ronald George, both affiliated with the Church at the Rock, had threatened volunteer escorts with death. The attorney general’s office quoted them saying, “You never know when you’re going to die.”

But “after years of sharing the sidewalk with Thomas and R. George,” Amon wrote, the abortion center escorts understood that the counselors were urging them to repent, not making threats, and were not genuinely intimidated. The judge attributed the shoulder-bumping and jostling caught on camera to the “escorts often outnumbering the protesters two to one” on the sidewalk.

The state could appeal the decision, but Cannon said it will prove difficult because Amon ruled based on a lack of evidence rather than law.

“Planned Parenthood nationwide, all of the pro-abortion attorney generals nationwide were watching this case,” he said. “If Schniederman had succeeded, you’d see these brazen efforts at distorting law pop up against counselors on the sidewalk everywhere in the country. So it’s a very significant case.”

American Life League American Life League Center for Medical Progress founder David Daleiden in 2016

Daleiden racketeering trial continues

Lawyers for David Daleiden are asking a federal court to order Planned Parenthood to provide proof of revenues and expenses for fetal tissue procurement. Daleiden hopes to show the nation’s largest abortion provider profited from the sale of fetal tissue. It represents the latest move in Planned Parenthood’s 2016 racketeering lawsuit against Daleiden and another activist after his group, the Center for Medical Progress, posted online undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing the trade.

Last week in Oakland, Calif., Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu heard from Planned Parenthood lawyers and Thomas More Society lawyers on whether the company should supply those documents. Thomas More Society attorney Peter Breen told me a Planned Parenthood lawyer conceded they never kept track of their expenses. 

“They were just taking money in without regard for how much it actually costs,” Breen told me. “Certainly it appears they violated federal law on selling fetal tissue for profit. They still to this day provided no defense for their actions or any cost accounting that can be tested in court to show that they had appropriate costs under federal law.”

Attorneys for both sides have about a week to submit additional paperwork. Ryu cautioned Breen that the financial documents may not be relevant, according to Courthouse News, but Breen told me the judge also asked for a number of the unedited videos of abortionists discussing the fetal tissue trade. She requested in particular the video of Planned Parenthood Los Angeles medical director Mary Gatter haggling over prices and saying, “I want a Lamborghini.” —S.G.

Facebook/Friends of Tracy Latimer Facebook/Friends of Tracy Latimer Tracy Latimer (second from left) with classmates in 1974

Tribute to Tracy Latimer

Responding to Robert Latimer’s request for a pardon for the murder of his disabled daughter Tracy in 1993, writer Taylor Hyatt tells about the personal connection she always felt with Tracy.

“I was born with the same disability,” wrote Hyatt, who suffers from cerebral palsy and is policy analyst at Canada-based Toujours Vivant, or Not Dead Yet, a group speaking for disabled people and against assisted suicide. “Hearing about Tracy’s fate sent shivers down my spine … and years later, it still does. The sense of kinship I felt with her, and the disgust I felt at the thought of her murder has stayed with me. If I had to put it all into words, it would read something like, ‘She’s like me, and her father resented having to care for her and feared for her future so much that he killed her.’”

Hyatt points out that Canada’s legalization of assisted suicide has prompted Latimer to say that today his actions would be “more understandable” to society. —S.G.

Study revoked

Issues in Law and Medicine withdrew a study that showed high success rates for abortion pill reversal for women who underwent progesterone treatments.

The study, conducted by abortion pill reversal pioneer Dr. George Delgado, followed more than 750 women who called a hotline after taking mifepristone, the first of a chemical abortion drug duo. More than 250 of those women saved their babies after taking progesterone treatments.

The University of California, San Diego, asked the scientific journal to withdraw the study because the school’s ethics review board said it did not green-light Delgado to collect more data, only analyze what he already had. Delgado told BuzzFeed News that “there were no ethical issues at all,” and that his research would get a second review. —S.G.

Sick humor

On the heels of Netflix airing Michelle Wolf’s disgraceful jokes that abortion should be on McDonald’s dollar menu, Teen Vogue published an equally disgraceful column saying that promoting abortion can be lighthearted. Solange Azor writes that the pro-abortion Lady Parts Justice League “offers a new sort of abortion politics: one which incorporates the frequently obfuscated space of joy, pleasure, and relief in discussions about abortion.” —S.G.

Keeping one baby alive

Unlike the tragic, high-profile cases of British infants Charlie Gard and Alfie Evans, baby Oliver Cameron received successful treatment from U.S. doctors for a heart defect. The British National Health Service said it approved the move because it lacked the expertise to treat him. Parents Lydia and Tim Cameron raised the money for the trip themselves and doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital performed the surgery. —S.G.

Samantha Gobba

Samantha reports on the pro-life movement for WORLD Digital.

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