In one of the lesser-known manipulations of U.S. law to advance the pro-abortion agenda, the President's Department of Justice has for several years been availing itself of a statute originally written to stop violence to instead seek massive fines and injunctions against peaceful pro-life advocates who offer alternatives to women on public sidewalks. But this politicization of the law in favor of abortion yielded a mixed record this week.
In Holder v. Pine, the U.S. Attorney General brought a legal attack against Mary Pine of West Palm Beach, Florida, who the federal court says is "a pro-life advocate who believes, based on her past unfortunate experience with abortion, that women who are considering abortion should be made aware of the available alternatives and assistance programs."
Pine's alleged federal offense is that she "offer[s] information and literature about 'life-affirming' alternatives to abortion" to people entering and leaving abortion centers
One single time, according to the Attorney General's complaint, Ms. Pine approached a car entering the abortion facility driveway that crosses the sidewalk, and she slightly, momentarily, may (or may not) have been there before the car was, so that the Department of Justice claims she blocked the car. But she "immediately" walked to the car's side, where the participants talked to her at length, wanting to hear her message.
The very next day, several DOJ representatives were at the abortion center to "investigate," but not as most of us would define it. The abortion center has a video camera running all the time, which would have shown what really happened. Yet the DOJ agents decided not to copy the video, and instead let it be destroyed. The judge called this "rather curious" and "hard to believe," making him wonder out loud "whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the government and the PWC, which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine's activities."
Ms. Pine's attorneys with the pro-life firm Liberty Counsel filed a motion for summary judgment, which the federal court granted last week. The judge declared that the DOJ had failed to follow the law in stretching the text of it to cover this "innocuous incident," and that no jury could find that Ms. Pine had the required motive, actual obstructing activity, and actual interference with someone getting an abortion, as the law requires.
The Court rejected the Obama administration's contention that merely wanting to convince people to choose life instead of abortion qualifies as an illegal motive to "obstruct" abortion under FACE, and ruled instead the First Amendment thoroughly protects Pine's desire. So plainly agenda-driven was the administration's case, it led the judge to declare that "The Court is at a loss as to why the Government chose to prosecute this particular case in the first place."
The DOJ has apparently not learned its lesson. It brought another action against sidewalk counselor Dick Retta in Washington, D.C. Once again, the complaint contends that in one mere incident, as Mr. Retta was walking alongside a woman to convince her not to enter a Planned Parenthood facility, he stepped in between her and the door momentarily, according to the abortion center's employees. In this case, Mr. Retta's attorneys from the pro-life law firm ACLJ moved to dismiss the complaint before discovery and the interviewing of witnesses. An Obama-appointed federal judge denied the motion last week. But Mr. Retta will be able to seek summary judgment after discovery just as Ms. Pine did, and hopefully the court will follow the Florida judge's lead.
These are just two of several instances of the Obama administration using federal law enforcement to protect abortion and suppress speech rather than deal with actual threats to public safety. Last year, Senator Rand Paul investigated evidence produced by ADF-allied attorney Herb Grey from training seminars conducted by the FBI and DOJ in partnership with abortion organizations. The FBI distributed a "report" at the seminars, which was produced by the abortion groups and was attached to the DOJ officials's presentation outline. The report placed pro-life free speech in the category of violence and listed numerous pro-life websites in its detailing of potential threats. Similarly, in April 2009, the Department of Homeland Security issued a report on the threat of domestic terrorism by "rightwing extremists," specifying that such extremism "may include groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion."
These instances demonstrate in real time that President Obama prioritizes abortion as one of the most urgent activities that law enforcement must protect, even (or especially) by targeting pro-life free speech. And it also shows that there is one group of people who can call this administration and make them come running: abortionists.