Victory: ACLJ Gets New York City To Recognize Free Speech Rights of Pro-Life Sidewalk Counselors | American Center for Law and Justice
  Search  |  Login  |  Register

ACLJ Profile Completion

Verified

Victory: Free Speech for Pro-Life Counselors

By Francis J. Manion1524862250844

As reported here, we recently sued the City of New York in federal court over a city law that was being used by some city police to threaten with jail peaceful sidewalk counselors who came within fifteen feet of the entrance of abortion businesses. The law, Administrative Code §8-803 makes it unlawful to “follow and harass” another person within 15 feet of a “reproductive health care facility.” First-time violators face a fine of up to $1,000 and six months in jail.

Whatever the “follow and harass” provision was intended to apply to, under longstanding First Amendment principles recently reinvigorated in this context by a unanimous Supreme Court in McCullen, et al. v. Coakley, 134 S. Ct. 2518 (2014), it cannot apply to peaceful speech or praying by prolifers walking alongside potential patients of an abortion clinic on a public sidewalk. Our client, Mary Devine, had engaged in sidewalk counseling for many years outside a clinic in the Bronx with little or no interference from law enforcement. But in 2017, she began to be warned by local police officers that she had to remain at least 15 feet away from the clinic entrance or face arrest for violating §8-803’s “follow and harass” provision. Before taking the matter to court, we asked the City of New York to acknowledge that this was an erroneous interpretation of the law and to instruct the local cops to back off and respect our client’s First Amendment’s rights. They ignored us, so we had no choice but to sue.

We are now pleased to report that, in response to our lawsuit, the City of New York has formally and in writing agreed with our interpretation of the law. The City has acknowledged that Administrative Code §8-803 “does not restrict peaceful sidewalk counseling, leafleting or other First Amendment expression within fifteen feet of an entrance to a reproductive health care facility.” The City has also directly communicated this to the local precinct commander. We are, thus, confident that our client’s rights will be respected from here on.

We are very gratified to have been able to bring about a favorable and quick resolution of this dispute. At the ACLJ, not all of our cases grab national headlines or make their way to the Supreme Court of the United States. Sometimes, as in this case, the “eternal vigilance” needed to protect Liberty plays out on a small scale, with real dedicated, unsung heroes like Mary Devine, tirelessly toiling in obscurity while bringing hope, help, and love to needy women and girls on the sidewalks of New York.

Defeat Pro-Abortion Laws & the Abortion Industry

Pro Life  Signatures

LOGIN

Receive the latest news, updates, and contribution opportunities from ACLJ.

$20
$40
$60
$120
$240
Make this a monthly tax-deductible gift.

We're aggressively battling in federal court to defeat the abortion industry & pro-abortion laws. Your gift - of any size - will help save lives.

Email Address is required.
First Name is required.
Last Name is required.
Credit Card Number is required.
Verification Code is required.
Expiration Month is required.
Expiration Year is required.
Receive the latest news, updates, and contribution opportunities from ACLJ.
Encourage your friends to sign and donate by sharing this petition.
Latest in
Pro Life

Ghastly Discovery in the Home of Deceased Abortionist

By Matthew Clark1568994327554

It should shock the conscience of everyone in America. It’s one of the most horrific stories in generations, and it’s hardly being covered by the mainstream media. It could be the plot of a chilling horror movie, but it’s 100% true. An Indiana abortionist (and resident of Illinois) was secretly...

read more

New Zealand Seeks to Allow Barbaric Late Term Abortions

By Olivia Summers1568756807773

Under the guise of “modernising,” New Zealand is considering adopting a proposed Abortion Legislation Bill . Abortion in New Zealand is currently allowed only in limited situations where the mother’s life or health is in danger, in cases of serious fetal abnormalities, or if the pregnancy is a...

read more

JSL: Bernie Sanders Says Abortions Will Help Environment

By Jay Sekulow1567718018229

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, you say to yourself, could that have actually been said? It’s really sick when you think about it. Today on the show we discussed Sen. Bernie Sanders saying that if we increase abortions we’re going to save the planet. Think about that for a moment. He...

read more

ACLJ Seeks Court Review in Sidewalk Counselors Case

By Geoffrey Surtees1567692603715

Sidewalk counselors share the good news of the sanctity of human life where that message needs to be heard the most: right outside the doors of abortion facilities. These counselors, who suffer the insults of clinic “escorts” and all types of weather, are unspoken heroes of the pro-life movement.

read more