This is the latest installment in a year-end series looking back at some of the numerous victories won by the ACLJ in 2019.
This year, the ACLJ secured a major victory in the fight to protect free speech rights of our pro-life clients, and for many other pro-life advocates.
A Southern District of Iowa judge ruled in favor of ACLJ clients who have devoted their lives to advocate on behalf of the unborn outside Planned Parenthood clinics and other abortion facilities in Iowa.
We filed a lawsuit on our clients’ behalf, arguing that a state law was blatantly unconstitutional because it could lead – and had led – to their prosecution just for spreading a message of hope and peace outside abortion clinics.
Our clients conduct pro-life activities on public sidewalks outside of Iowa abortion clinics – including Planned Parenthood – involving Bible readings, open-air preaching, and counseling individuals walking to and from the clinics.
One of our clients had faced citation, prosecution, and conviction under the statute, and both clients continually faced threats of future prosecution for their pro-life activities.
The statute we challenged deemed it a criminal misdemeanor to make “loud and raucous noise in the vicinity of any residence or public building which causes unreasonable distress to the occupants thereof.”
We argued that commenting on matters of public concern, such as abortion, through the spoken word, prayer, and distribution of literature is protected speech that lies at the heart of the First Amendment, and should be free from government infringement, even on public sidewalks.
The law was unconstitutionally vague on its face because it subjected speakers to criminal punishment based on the reactions of third parties, while requiring no specific mens rea on the part of the speaker. It was also vague as applied because Defendants enforce the statute in a way that gives Plaintiffs insufficient notice of when their speech violates the statute.
We asked that the Court find the statute unconstitutional and invalidate it, and the Court did exactly that.
This was a significant victory for our clients, but also for pro-life advocates, free speech, and most importantly, for the defenseless unborn babies we’re all working together to save.
To ensure the ACLJ continues to have the resources we need to make these victories possible and continue protecting pro-life speech and defending unborn babies, please consider making a Tax-Deductible donation to the ACLJ through our year-end Matching Challenge. Your gift will be DOUBLED dollar-for-dollar through the end of the year.
You can read more in the ACLJ’s 2019 Victories Series here.
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