General Recap & Update (Summer 2009)

Roe v. Planned Parenthood (Ohio)—Civil action for damages and injunctive relief filed against PP for performing abortion on fourteen-year-old girl in violation of Ohio law. Claims on behalf of girl and parents include violation of parental notice and consent statutes, informed consent statute, and law requiring reports in cases of suspected child abuse. PP’s motion to dismiss four of the claims was overruled, and PP unsuccessfully appealed that decision. Plaintiffs proceeded with discovery, seeking redacted records of abortion on other minors to show pattern of failing to report. PP objected, but trial court ruled that records must be produced. PP appealed that decision to court of appeal, which reversed trial court. On July 2, Ohio Supreme Court affirmed the lower court decision that Planned Parenthood could not be compelled to turn over the redacted records, because punitive damages could not be awarded under Roe’s claims.

Hoye v. Oakland—Federal constitutional challenge to Oakland “Mother May I” ordinance restricting speech outside abortion clinics. Following initial successful challenge, city passed amended ordinance, prompting a second challenge. City’s motion to dismiss denied. Motions for summary judgment heard June 26. Decision pending. See “‘Mother, May I’ Law Challenged in Federal Court” on this page.

People v. Hoye (Oakland)—Criminal prosecution arising from municipal “Mother May I” ordinance. Pastor Walter Hoye was acquitted of charges of “intimidating” pro-abortion escorts, but was convicted of two counts of unlawfully approaching unspecified persons entering the clinic. Rev. Hoye turned down probation, requiring him to stay 100 yards away from the clinic, and instead serve a 30-day sentence and paid a fine. An appeal has been filed. The district attorney is now asking the trial judge to grant “injunctive relief” prohibiting Rev. Hoye from coming within 100 yards of the clinic, despite the fact that the criminal action has terminated and the trial court no longer has jurisdiction.

Alabama v. Shaver et al. (Ala.)—Prolifers arrested for trespassing on a public sidewalk outside Parker High School in Birmingham, Alabama. Nine activists were jailed overnight without food or water and some were shackled. When one prolifer asked the police “Isn’t this public property,” the officer replied “Not today it’s not.” In addition, the police unlawfully seized and damaged the group’s van and confiscated their video equipment. Criminal trial scheduled for August 2009.

Logsdon v. Hains (Ohio)—Federal civil rights lawsuit for damages filed against two Cincinnati police officers for arresting sidewalk counselor at abortion clinic without probable cause. Lower court dismissed based on qualified immunity, but Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that a prudent officer would listen to witnesses on both sides, rather than only listening to clinic employee and telling pro-lifers to tell it to the jury. Defendants’ petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court denied. Case remanded for further proceedings in trial court. Victory! Case settled for damages and attorney fees.

Choose Life, Inc. v. White (Illinois)—Amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court supporting reversal of lower court decision upholding dismissal of lawsuit against state for not allowing “Choose Life” license plates on the grounds that the message was too controversial.

Fairbanks v. Planned Parenthood (Ohio)—Lawsuit filed alleging that PP violated Ohio law by their failure to report the sexual abuse of minors. The suit alleges that Fairbanks was brought to PP by her father, who had been sexually assaulting her since she was thirteen. He sought an abortion for his daughter at PP to cover up the sexual abuse and resulting pregnancy. Although minor attempted to tell PP personnel of abuse, they ignored her and failed to report, allowing abuse to continue. PP has filed a motion to dismiss some claims, which has been briefed and is pending.

People v. Weimer (Jackson, Miss.)—Prolife picketer convicted of violating local sign ordinance. Appeal pending. Oral argument set for September 21.

People v. Pollian et al. (Dayton, Ohio)—Pro-lifers on public college campus arrested and jailed on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to trespass to felony assault on a police officer. Grand jury convened on felony charge, but refused to indict. Other cases set for trial in October.

People v. Lord, et al. (Calif.)—Pro-lifers arrested for trespassing because they failed to comply with Columbia College’s unconstitutional permit requirement requiring 15-day advance registration. Once the prosecution realized that the pro-lifers had a right to be on campus and exercise their free speech rights, they quickly changed the allegations against the group, instead accusing them of causing a disturbance on a college campus. Victory! All defendants acquitted in jury trial.

Aurora, Illinois—Multi-pronged attack on Planned Parenthood for lying its way to open an abortion “Mega-Mill” in Aurora, the fastest-growing city in Illinois. Cecile Richards, CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, recently wrote her supporters that Aurora now represents “‘Ground Zero’ in the national fight to protect reproductive freedom.” Three different lawsuits attack Planned Parenthood and compliant city officials for defamation, fraud, violation of municipal zoning regulations, and civil rights violations. Court allowed two counts of defamation claim to proceed, while dismissing four other counts. These counts are now the subject of an interlocutory appeal. City and PP have filed motion to dismiss zoning challenge for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

People v. Hunt (Asheville, N.C.)—Prolifers arrested at A-B Tech College for not complying with unconstitutional permit requirement. Appeal filed following trial court conviction.

Vivian Skovgard v. Pedro (Ohio)—Civil action arising from unlawful arrests for trespass of two sidewalk counselors standing in the public right-of-way. Discovery proceeding. Trial set for January 2010.

Blythe v. Cypress College (Calif.)—Pro-lifers arrested for trespassing on a public college campus for allegedly refusing to leave property not open to the general public. The prosecution dismissed all charges and the judge found the pro-lifers “factually innocent” and ordered that all record of the arrests be removed from their criminal records. Lawsuit filed against college and police department for false arrest and civil rights violations. All parties are engaged in discovery. Cross-motions for summary judgment set for August 4.

Condit v. John Doe (Ohio)—Pro-abortion driver attempt to run over picketer. Lawsuit filed. “Doe” has been identified and named as defendant. Discovery is proceeding. Victory! Case settled for damages.

Blythe v. Cypress College II (Calif.)—Prolifers arrested for the third time on the campus of Cypress College for refusing to stand in the “free speech zone” located sufficiently far away from the most traversed areas of campus to make contact with any students virtually impossible. The prosecution dismissed all changes just moments before the trial was set to begin. A third lawsuit has been filed against the college and the police department for false arrest and civil rights violations. Hearing on College’s demurrer in July.

White v. Laguna Beach (Calif.)—Pro-lifer arrested for blocking a public sidewalk in Laguna Beach. When the criminal case went to trial, the police officer brought photos that proved Mr. White was not blocking any sidewalk and that other members of the public were free to traverse the walkway undeterred. The court found Mr. White not guilty. A civil lawsuit for false arrest and civil rights violations has been filed against the City and the officer who made the unlawful arrest. Discovery is proceeding.

People v. Cox, et al. (Calif.)—Prolifer forcibly removed from Chaffey College campus and property unlawfully confiscated for simply walking into the campus police station and asking who made an order telling the Survivors they could only stand in one specific location on campus. When other pro-lifers tried to find out what had happened to their friend, they too were arrested and quickly ushered into a private room where the police covered the windows so no one could see what was happening inside. The police threw one pro-lifer on a table and vigorously frisked him removing everything from his pockets. The police handcuffed the other pro-lifer in a dark bathroom with his hands locked to a metal bar above his head. Two of the boys were held in jail for more than three days before being released on bail. All three now face charges of causing a disturbance on campus, resisting arrest, and eavesdropping. The appellate court threw out the unlawfully seized property, resulting in the dismissal of six charges. Jury trial in May 2009. Victory! Defendants acquitted on all charges. Claim for damages for free speech violations filed.

Conrad v. San Bernardino (Calif.)—Sidewalk counselor arrested for trespassing in parking lot open to the public. Charges dismissed. Lawsuit for false arrest and constitutional violations filed against city and clinic security guard. Victory! City settled for monetary damages. Lawsuit against clinic security guard continues, with discovery proceeding.

White v. San Bernardino (Calif.)—Prolife picketer arrested for sign ordinance violation for failing to hold sign off the ground while avoiding fire department hosing off pro-life Mother’s Day messages chalked on sidewalk. Charges dismissed. Lawsuit against city and clinic security guard. Victory! City settled for monetary damages. Lawsuit against clinic security guard continues, with discovery proceeding.

Guengerich vs. LACCD (Calif.)—Pro-lifers arrested for causing a campus disturbance at Los Angeles City College. The alleged disturbance consisted of five individuals peacefully holding signs and handing out literature on a public college campus. The event was captured on video and will be used to defend the group against these frivolous charges. After a hearing at the L.A. City Attorney’s office, no charges were filed. Claim against LACC denied. Lawsuit for constitutional violations pending.

Colantuono vs. College of Alameda (Calif.)—Pro-lifers arrested for trespassing on a public college campus. College of Alameda administrators told the police that they did not approve of the Survivors signs and literature and therefore they wanted the group removed from the campus. Three activists spent twelve hours in jail before being released. Claim for damages pending; college is in process of amending its speech policies.

People v. Wiechec (Colo.)—Pro-lifer arrested for disrupting an lawful assembly by protesting at a rally opposing the Colorado Personhood Amendment held on steps of state capitol. Charges dismissed after pro-abort governor subpoenaed to testify about unconstitutional application of the law against pro-lifers but not against pro-abortionists. Civil suit pending. Texas v. Shaver—Pro-lifer arrested for “trespassing” on sidewalk in front of public high school campus. Trial set for July 30.

Womenscare Gynecology, Inc. v. Holy Spirit Catholic Church, et al. (Miss.)— Injunction sought against pro-life side walk counselors. Preliminary injunction denied. Discovery proceeding.

ACT v. John Doe (Mass.)—Advanced Cell Technologies sued anonymous pro-lifer who posted an opinion on their work in embryonic stem cell research. ACT sought records from Yahoo to obtain pro-lifer’s identity and other personal information. Motion to quash subpoena filed.