In an unusual legal ruling, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed itself and ruled in favor of abortion protesters, including a group of Christians from a Brooklyn church, who gather weekly in front of the Choices Women’s Medical Center in Queens. These dedicated men and women pray for and offer information on alternatives to abortion to the women entering the facility.
The case started in 2017, when former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (AG) sued the sidewalk protestors, alleging their actions violated state and federal statutes prohibiting actual, intentional interference with access to a clinic by means of force, threats of force or physical obstruction. Peaceful pro-life activity is specifically protected under the law. Schneiderman asked a federal district court judge to issue an injunction preventing the protestors from gathering at the facility.
District Judge Carol Bagley Amon denied the AG’s request, and the AG appealed to the 2nd Circuit. In March of this year, a three-judge panel on the appeals court reversed Amon’s decision, ruling that the AG was entitled to an injunction.
However, the defendants asked the 2nd Circuit to reconsider its ruling, which is typically denied in the vast majority of lawsuits. This time, however, the appeals court reconsidered and vacated its March ruling, deferring to the district court judge’s original decision. The case is now set to go back to the district court for further proceedings.
One of the sidewalk protestors, Scott Fitchett, Jr., is represented by Liberty Counsel. In a press release, Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver celebrated the win.
“This is a great victory,” Staver said. “We are pleased that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed its prior opinion and reinstated the district court’s well-reasoned opinion that thwarted the attorney general’s attempt to censor our client. Scott Fitchett did nothing wrong by exercising his First Amendment right to preach the gospel on a public sidewalk. The AG’s lawsuit is politically-motivated and patently frivolous.”
Many of the pro-life defendants in the case are Christians who attend the same New York City church. They are represented by attorneys with the Thomas More Society.
According to Thomas More Society General Counsel Andrew Bath, “Most of these pro-life advocates are members of the Church at the Rock in Brooklyn. As life-affirming Christians, they peacefully counsel women who are considering having an abortion. They conduct themselves reasonably and compassionately and offer information about abortion alternatives to those willing to listen.”
The current attorney general of New York is Letitia James. She will decide whether to continue the legal case against the protestors begun by her predecessor or abandon what amounts to an attempt to censor the pro-life message that offers a hopeful alternative to abortion.
Please pray for the peaceful resolution of the case, for God’s protection and grace for the defendants, and for babies to be miraculously saved at this and other abortion facilities through the prayers and personal ministry of those who deeply care about the right to life.
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