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Obama Admin. Pursues Civil Cases Against Pro-life Street Counselors

Obama Admin. Pursues Civil Cases Against Pro-life Street Counselors

The Department of Justice's civil rights division has filed more civil cases against pro-life sidewalk counselors during Barack Obama's administration than the previous administration.

The Justice Department (DOJ) has filed eight cases against pro-lifers under the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances, or FACE, Act in the nearly three years that Obama has served as president. The number seems small on its own. However it is a huge increase when compared to the one case filed during the eight years President George W. Bush served in office

Pro-lifers would argue that the Obama administration, with its aggressive pursuit of pro-lifers, is overtly siding with abortion providers in their attack of pro-life advocates who pray and pass out literatures in front of abortion clinics.

Life Legal Defense Foundation Executive Director Dana Cody said abortion clinics are determined to silence the pro-life opposition.

She explained that Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers "do not like the fact that there's people out there [doing] what they call sidewalk counseling because women change their mind and they don't go in and purchase an abortions. So it cuts into their business."

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The clinics demonize pro-lifers in the public's eyes in order to keep street counselors away from their patients.

Cody said when a street counselor is arrested and brought to court in a civil or criminal case, they are met with the same pro-choice stereotypes.

"People who support abortion," she continued, "have done such a good job of demonizing people who oppose abortion in the media that you have judges [that, when] you walk into the courtroom with your client who's pro-life, they often times say, 'We know what you people are like.' And instead of assuming you're innocent until proven guilty, they assume you're guilty until proven innocent."

For sure, some pro-life advocates in the past have behaved in ways that fit the stereotyped images of violence.

Tom Beam, director of the Christian World View Center at North Greenville University, noted in 2009 that, "People with good intentions, but misguided thinking, invoke the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and his involvement in the Abwehr plot to kill Hitler in Nazi Germany, as justification for extreme measures in the defense of life."

Bonhoeffer took extreme measures to stop what he knew to be evil. Similarly some pro-lifers pursued extreme measures such as clinic bombings and vandalism in order to protect pre-born life.

Since the 2009 murder of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, many pro-life groups have publicly denounced such acts of violence.

Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, stated publicly, "We denounce vigilantism and the cowardly act that took place this morning."

Susan B. Anthony List President Majorie Dannenfelser said, "The rights of one human being can never be honored by diminishing or ignoring the rights of another."

Additionally, street counselors often train volunteers to respect the law, as well as the rights of the clinics.

Statistics show those actions have made a difference.

The National Abortion Federation, which tracks violent incidents, says major violence is down since Tiller's murder.

However, abortion proponents say even more legal action must be taken in order to prevent future criminal activity.

Sharon Levin, a vice president at the National Abortion Federation, told Nation Public Radio that the DOJ's actions are keeping violent protesters from escalating to acts of bodily harm.

"One of the dangers we have seen is that the people who commit the major violent acts often started with minor violent acts," Levin said, "and they were never arrested, so their activities escalated."

However, Cody says sidewalk counselors pose little danger to abortion clinic patrons or staff. Rather, she says, sidewalk escorts, provided by some clinics, purposely agitate street counselors.

In the criminal case of Pastor Walter Hoye of Oakland, Calif., Cody says he was unfairly arrested after pro-abortion clinic escorts violated his rights. She says Hoye was carrying a sign with the words "Jesus loves you and your baby. Please let us help."

"The clinic escorts would surround him, they would block his sign, they would keep him from moving, so he couldn't talk to women, and then law enforcement comes down and arrests him," Cody described.

Pastor Hoye, who was charged with violating "Mother May I" sidewalk counseling law, was sentenced to 30 days in jail. He served 18 of those days in jail before the conviction was overturned on appeal.

"The escorts cause the commotion and then they accuse the sidewalk counselors of doing what they just did," she said.

Cody says Dick Retta, a Maryland resident, encountered similar dust up with escorts while he was serving as a street counselor in front of a Planned Parenthood clinic in the District of Columbia.

He was charged in July with violating the FACE Act by intimidating and interfering with patients.

Retta, a Catholic who has been a street counselor for more than a decade, says he trains other volunteers and knows better than to block women from going into the clinic.

Newman charges that the Justice Department’s heavy handed approach to the FACE ACT is "a political tool to shut [street counselors] up, shut them down and make them go away."

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