For over forty years, vigilant prayer warriors have peacefully gathered on public sidewalks in front of abortion mills to pray for women in crisis, babies on the verge of death, and workers blinded to the atrocity of abortion. They offer help, hope, and compassion. Only in a bizarre twilight zone universe are help, hope, and compassion viewed as threatening, antagonizing, and criminal conduct.
Twenty years after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hill v. Colorado, which upheld a Colorado law creating no-approach bubble zones outside of medical facilities, the heavy hand of pro-abortion government is hitting Life Legal close to home. The city council of Napa, California, administrative headquarter of Life Legal, voted this week to approve a bubble zone ordinance – literally in our backyard.
This ordinance will affect our own staff, which meets daily on the sidewalk outside Planned Parenthood to pray and counsel women to choose life for their babies. Pro-life counselors refer women to the local pregnancy resource center right next door to PP – a center that was co-founded by Life Legal CFO Mary Riley.
Since Hill, numerous states and cities have implemented similar laws that prohibit sidewalk counselors from approaching abortion-minded women to offer them life-saving alternatives to killing their children. Life Legal is no stranger to fighting off these attacks against the last line of defense to save precious little ones from imminent death.
In 2010, Life Legal defended Rev. Walter Hoye in criminal court against charges of violating a bubble law in Oakland, California. We simultaneously challenged the constitutionality of the law in federal court. Life Legal ultimately got all charges dismissed against Rev. Hoye and was instrumental in forcing the City to enforce the bubble law evenhandedly and not just against pro-life speakers.
In 2009 and 2013, Life Legal filed amicus briefs (here and here) in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the successful challenge to the Massachusetts buffer zone law in McCullen v. Coakley. In that case, the Court rejected certain aspects of the buffer law because the State could not justify the need for such extreme restrictions on free speech. This precedent-setting case was instrumental in placing the burden on cities and states to demonstrate that, before enacting buffer zones around abortion clinics, less restrictive measures were tried and such measures failed to address the alleged problems. Because, as pro-lifers know, the “problem” is actually their speech, and not their conduct, the McCullen decision erected a very high hurdle for passing speech-restrictive laws against pro-life activism.
This has not stopped Planned Parenthood from aggressively lobbying for bubble zone laws in communities across the United States, including Napa. The last thing the nation’s largest abortion provider wants is for their clients to have access to life-affirming options to abortion. Make no mistake about it, abortion is Planned Parenthood’s bread and butter. Their multi-billion-dollar operation is funded by killing babies and then selling their organs and other body parts to the highest bidder.
Last year, Life Legal filed a friend of the court brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a case challenging the buffer zone law in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We are also working closely with local activists preparing to challenge a bubble law in Jackson, Mississippi, even as we are helping pro-lifers on the ground shut down the state’s last remaining abortion mill.
We are currently evaluating legal options that will allow pro-lifers in Napa – including our own staff – to continue to provide prayerful and tangible help for women and babies in need.