Case Update

Summer 2013

Supreme Court Grants Review of Massachusetts Buffer Zone Law On June 24, 2013 the Supreme Court announced that it will review a decision of the First Circuit upholding a Massachusetts law that severely restricts the free speech of pro-life advocates. Life Legal Defense Foundation filed an amici curiae (friends of the court) brief in the Supreme Court arguing that this buffer zone is unconstitutional. Read more more.

People v. Garza (Jackson, Miss.)—Pro-life activists arrested for distributing leaflets on sidewalk in front of high school and charged with trespass, disturbing the peace, and interference with school buses. After trial, found guilty on two of the three charges. New trial pending.

People v. White (Birmingham, Ala.)—Clinic director attempted to disperse pro-life sidewalk counselors by directing a high pressure sprinkler nozzle into their faces, injuring White’s eye and damaging other property. White was charged with assault after attempting to prevent further use of sprinkler as weapon. Trial pending.

Colantuono v. 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. College desires to settle case without formal civil complaint being filed. College imposed new speech policy. Plaintiffs are awaiting settlement proposal from Peralta Community College District. The District is awaiting Board approval of the newly drafted free speech policy.

People v. Brock (Glendora, Calif.)—Pro-life activist Ronald Brock convicted of violating the city ordinance prohibiting “mobile billboard advertising.” Brock travels around the United States displaying the truth about abortion on signs affixed to his motorhome. Court of Appeal upheld conviction. Civil case to be filed in federal court.

Holder U.S. v. Hamilton (Ky.)—Civil lawsuit for damages, penalties, and injunctive relief pursuant to FACE brought against sidewalk counselor who moved escort’s arm out of his way in order to hand leaflet to patient. Escorts were locking arms on sidewalk to block sidewalk counselors. Court denied government’s motion for summary judgment. Victory!: case settled.

In re Kline—Former Kansas Attorney General accused of violating state ethics rules while investigating abortion providers. As District Attorney, Kline filed 107 criminal charges against the Planned Parenthood clinic in 2007, accusing them of performing illegal abortions and falsifying records. Kline is the only Attorney General / prosecutor ever to obtain abortion records and formally charge both George Tiller and Planned Parenthood. In May 2012 claiming political motivations, Kline filed exceptions to the findings of fact and brief. Hearing held at Supreme Court and decision pending amid ethical violations within the court.

Aurora, Illinois—Three separate cases arose out of the furor surrounding the opening in 2007 of what was then America’s largest abortion clinic, a furor that led Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America to call Aurora, Illinois, in suburban Chicago, “Ground Zero” in the nation’s “war” over abortion rights. Two of these cases remain. One, regarding whether Planned Parenthood’s clinic is an unlawful, non-conforming use of the property, is proceeding through multiple motions and temporary, non-dispositive rulings, with Planned Parenthood’s attorneys working furiously to put off the day of reckoning. The second concerns Planned Parenthood’s defamatory statements about Eric Scheidler and the Pro-Life Action League. That suit is currently on appeal from an adverse ruling in the trial court.

People v. Foti et al. (San Francisco, Calif.) Sidewalk counselor charged with sign violations. Charges dismissed. Civil action under consideration.

People of Alabama v. Fecteau (Huntsville, Ala.) 71-year-old grandmother charged with harassment for sprinkling holy water in the direction of deathscorts on the sidewalk. Victory!: Judge finds not guilty.

Alabama Board of Health v. All Women’s, et al. (Ala.) As NWAW violates Alabama Dept of Public Health Closure, LLDF files complaints, investigates and remains fully engaged to assure no abortions are performed.

Kansas v. White (Wichita, Kan.) Pro-life activist arrested for trespassing on a public college campus. Butler College administrators told the activists that their free speech activity was restricted to a small, remote area on the outskirts of campus. The campus life team went to the free speech area where they observed few to no passersby. Mr. White declined to stand in a place where his life saving message would not reach a single person. Butler College police arrested Mr. White for trespassing. Criminal trial is pending.

McCullen v. Coakley (Mass.)—The case began in 2007, when Massachusetts passed a law prohibiting “entering or remaining” within 35 feet of abortion clinic entrances. The law contains exceptions for patients, clinic employees, and persons merely passing through the zone to get to another destination. The undisputed target of the bill was pro-life sidewalk counselors who attempt to bring their life-affirming message directly to women seeking abortions. The law was challenged in federal court, but both the District Court and the First Circuit ruled the law constitutional. LLDF filed an amicus brief on behalf of itself and Pastor Walter Hoye urging the court to review the case. The brief argues that speech restrictions targeted at abortion clinics are de facto content and viewpoint based laws and thus inconsistent with the First Amendment.

HHS Mandate litigation:

LLDF, in conjunction with the Bioethics Defense Fund, is filing amicus briefs, both at the district and appellate court levels, in many of the cases challenging the HHS contraceptive abortifacient mandate. Our brief demonstrates that the Government’s argument that contraceptives promote women’s health is based on evidence that is inaccurate, incomplete, irrelevant, and/or biased. Moreover the government entirely failed to consider the harmful effects of hormonal contraceptives on women’s health before mandating no-cost coverage of these drugs in virtually every insurance plan. For these reasons, the Government cannot meet its burden under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of showing that the Mandate furthers a compelling governmental interest.

To date, LLDF has filed amicus briefs in:

Legatus, et al. v. Sebelius et al. (Mich.)

Priests for Life v. Sebelius et al. (N.Y.)

Frank O’Brien, Jr., et al. v. Department of HHS (Mo.)

Wheaton College and Belmont Abbey v. Sebelius (D.C.)

Korte v. U.S. Dept. of HHS (Ill.)

Autocam v. Sebelius (Mich.)

Liberty University v. Geithner (Va.)

Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius (Ok.)

Tonn & Blank v. Sebelius (In.)

Conestoga Wood Specialties v. HHS (Pa.)

Monaghan v. Sebelius (Mich.)

Annex Medical v. Sebelius (Minn.)

Newland and Hercules Indus. v. Sebelius (Colo.)

Gilardi v. HHS (D.C.)