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

Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act Vote Scheduled

By Nathanael Bennett1550847600000

Recently we told you about the U.S. Senate’s failure to defend babies who are born alive after an attempted abortion . Sen. Patty Murray (WA) objected to a request that the Senate unanimously act to ensure medical care and legal rights are afforded to newborn infants who are fighting for their...

read more

ACLJ Submits Comments in Support of HHS Regulation

By Olivia Summers1550614575900

Did you know that in some states there is no pro-life insurance option under ObamaCare’s state exchanges? That’s right; in 9 jurisdictions there is no abortion-free insurance option . You’re forced to pay for abortion. We’re taking action today, submitting formal public comments in support of a new...

read more

NY Abortion Law Forces Dropped Charge in Brutal Murder

By Jordan Sekulow1550262108389

We told you that New York’s barbaric abortion law would have real life (and death) consequences. Unfortunately, we’re already seeing the first evidence of that. An unspeakably savage crime that’s hard to even comprehend, let alone describe, will now go unpunished. A man attacked his pregnant...

read more

The Left’s Troubled Past of Abortion and Eugenics

By Jordan Sekulow1549638243642

The stunning developments of recent days out of Virginia with an extremist abortion-through-birth bill, the governor promoting infanticide, and a total collapse of the top three pro-abortion elected officials, remind us of the Left’s troubled past. First, I detailed exactly what happened in...

read more