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 and Big Abortion

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 Big Abortion & pro-abortion laws. Your gift - of any size - will be DOUBLED to save lives. Have your gift doubled through our Matching Challenge.

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

Urging Supreme Court to Protect the Most Defenseless

By Walter M. Weber1542326760000

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Supreme Court to review an abortion case out of Indiana. The case, Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky (PPINK) , involves two provisions of Indiana law that were struck down by the lower...

read more

Piercing Big Abortion’s Shroud of Secrecy

By Erik Zimmerman1541777969588

We have recently joined a motion in an ongoing abortion industry lawsuit asking a federal court to require critical documents concerning Big Abortion’s sale of aborted babies’ body parts to be turned over. In 2015, the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released a series of videos that showed senior...

read more

ACLJ Files Lawsuit to Protect Pro-Life Free Speech

By Michelle Terry1541170948318

Today the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ) filed a lawsuit in federal court in Iowa on behalf of two individuals, Anthony Miano and Nicholas Rolland, challenging a state statute that infringes upon their right to advocate for the lives of the unborn outside of Planned Parenthood and other...

read more

Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Deals Blow to Big Abortion

By Olivia Summers1539956957514

Recently, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a Louisiana law that “ requires abortion facilities to meet basic health and safety standards .” Specifically, the law requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. This is a victory for the lives of unborn babies,

read more