Barack Obama’s hand-picked attorney general, Eric Holder, has been blocked by a federal court in his effort to punish a pro-life protester for the third time in recent months.
The latest case came in Louisville, Ky., where Holder was asking for a summary judgment – essentially a court’s conclusion that the evidence was overwhelming – so pro-life activist David Hamilton could be punished immediately.
U.S. District Judge Jennifer B. Coffman, however, concluded the evidence in the case indicates “multiple genuine disputes of material fact.”
“I’m certain the attorney general’s office thought this was going to be an easy case with a forgone conclusion,” said Dana Cody, executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation, “but the federal court has recognized that there are two sides to every story.”
The case focuses on the EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, an abortion business frequently protested by pro-lifers, including Hamilton. On Jan. 30, 2010, Hamilton approached a woman at the clinic he thought was a patient, and Jane Fitts, apparently an “escort,” moved in between Hamilton and the patient.
“In his attempt to continue talking to the patient, Hamilton ‘pushed [Fitts's] arm down slightly,’” the judge found.
But the judge said the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances law, which minimizes the opportunity abortion patients have to see alternatives to abortion, requires the prosecution to show Hamilton used force with the intent to injure or intimidate someone because that person was seeking or providing reproductive health services.
There are questions for a jury concerning whether any contact “was used intentionally to injure, intimidate, or interfere” and “whether Fitts was indeed providing reproductive health services.”
The judge suggested it was possible that Fitts was not an “escort” at all but would be “more accurately characterized as a counter-protester.”
“U.S. courts are charged with protecting the freedoms of all American citizens,” said Cody. “Sidewalk counselors have the same rights as other people.”
The federal government recently abandoned a similar case against sidewalk counselor Kenneth Scott in Denver, shortly after failing in a Florida case brought against Mary Susan Pine. The government settled for $120,000 in damages after a judge openly pondered sanctions against government attorneys.
The issue also arose recently when Andy Moore, an activist who has just launched AbortionWiki.org, which aims eventually to be a complete dossier on the abortion industry worldwide, was approached at his home by federal investigators and subjected to intimidating questioning.
Moore is the son-in-law of pro-life activist Jill Stanek, a speaker, blogger and writer who was a registered nurse at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., when she discovered babies were being aborted alive there and left to die on closet shelves without medical care.
She later exposed that Barack Obama opposed legislation that would have required doctors to provide assistance to babies that survive abortion attempts, a position critics described essentially as infanticide.
The intimidation concerns the Life Legal Defense Foundation, which has advised Moore to have someone video his protest activities. The group promises to defend him if the need arises.
Allison Aranda, senior staff counsel, charges the Obama administration “is essentially engaging in a witch hunt.”
“From the moment the new administration took office, the DOJ has been targeting peaceful pro-life sidewalk counselors,” she said. “They have come out guns blazing on several occasions, often bringing allegations that could later not be substantiated or in some cases clearly proven to be false.”
Stanek, who wrote about the episode on her website, noted that Aranda has seen the federal government use the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, the FACE Act, to attack pro-life counselors. The federal law keeps pro-life counselors away from abortion business front doors.
“The DOJ is using tactics that amount to legal extortion,” Stanek said. “They have filed these frivolous claims against innocent people who don’t have the finances to hire big shot attorneys. The DOJ then kindly offers to settle the case if the counselor simply agrees to stay so many yards away and pay a couple thousand dollar fine.”
Moore told WND the FBI warned him specifically against obstructing vehicle access to abortion businesses, something he says he did not do.
“They also warned of threats of violence,” he said. “The example they gave is I could not just walk up to a car and say, ‘If you go ahead and get an abortion, I will make sure something bad happens to you.’”
In the Florida case, U.S. District Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp openly wondered whether there was a cozy relationship between the abortion clinic and federal prosecutors that could warp justice.
As Ryskamp dismissed the abortion clinic access complaint against the woman for lack of evidence, he charged that there appeared to be collusion and that if there had been a little more evidence, he might have taken action.
“It is rather curious that the Department of Justice was able to meet with the [Presidential Women's Center in West Palm Beach, Fla.] staff and police officers the very next day after the alleged violations occurred. It is also curious that the government failed to make any efforts to obtain the identities of the passengers who are the alleged victims in this case – the court finds it hard to believe that the government was completely unaware of the existence of the sign-in sheets and video surveillance system,” he wrote.
The judge said the court “can only wonder whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the government and the PWC, which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities rather than to vindicate the rights of those allegedly aggrieved by Ms. Pine’s conduct.
“If this is the case, the court would be inclined to sanction the government with, at a minimum, an adverse inference. Given the absence of further evidence substantiating the court’s suspicions, the court is not authorized to do so,” the judge wrote.
He cleared Pine of all allegations.
The Denver case involved Ken Scott, a pro-life advocate who was targeted by five federal prosecutors for passing out information outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic.
But U.S. District Court Judge Philip Brimmer dismissed 10 motions made by federal prosecutors in the case. The federal government decided shortly later to abandon its campaign against Scott.