A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order against 11 pro-life activists a day before their planned protest in front of a Kentucky abortion center.
Judge David Hale issued the order on Friday against 11 participants in Operation Save America, whom police arrested in May for allegedly blocking the entrance of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville. The center is Kentucky’s sole operating abortion facility.
The order prohibits the pro-lifers and anyone “acting in concert of participation” with them from entering a buffer zone around the abortion center during their event “For Such a Time as This” planned for the weekend.
The zone is a 7½-foot wide swath extending 14 feet from the abortion center entrance.
“We’re going to do what we always do. We’re going to exercise our ministry on the sidewalk, and let the chips fall where they may,” said Rusty Thomas, director of Operation Save America.
Federal prosecutors claimed last week that Thomas, James Soderna, Thomas Raddell, David Graves, Laura Buck, Chris Keys, James Zastrow, Eva Edl, Eva Zastrow, Dennis Green, and an unnamed minor violated the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act on May 13 when they “sat down with their backs against EMW’s doors and refused to move from the entrance.”
The FACE Act prohibits using physical intimidation, obstruction, or injury to stop someone from “obtaining or providing reproductive health services.”
Video of the May demonstration, posted by Operation Save America, shows pro-lifers sitting, standing, and walking around in front of the abortion center. Some held signs while others prayed aloud.
Federal prosecutors wrote that the 11 pro-lifers kept anyone from entering or leaving the abortion facility through the front doors. But Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, said the facts may tell a different story.
“Like Proverbs says, ‘He who states his case first seems correct, until another comes forth and challenges him,’” Staver told me. “We’ve found that oftentimes the real facts may not support these kinds of allegations about blocking.”
Staver defended a similar case five years ago when then–U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder levied charges against pro-life sidewalk counselor Susan Pine. Holder claimed she had violated the FACE Act by blocking the entrance of an abortion center. But he dropped the case, and the Department of Justice agreed to pay $120,000 in lawyer fees after a judge ruled the charges were frivolous: Pine had merely offered literature to passengers of a car and allowed them to proceed to the abortion center.
Whether or not the court finds the 11 pro-lifers guilty of violating the FACE Act, Staver said that from their perspective, “No question, what’s at stake is a human life.”
“These people that are there are dedicated to helping innocent, defenseless children. So the ethics is not so much what their actions are. The ethics is what’s going on in this abortion clinic,” he said. The dismemberment of unborn children by abortion, he added, is “no different” from Nazis killing Jews during the Holocaust: “In some places, you received the death penalty for assisting a Jew. And history now looks at these people as heroes who put their own life on the line. And I think history will do the same for people today that are standing up for the preborn.”
A hearing is set for Monday.