A lawsuit has forced a Planned Parenthood branch to sever its special arrangement with a public library.
The Waco, Texas, library system included a facility run by Planned Parenthood of Central Texas that blocked access by people who have protested against the abortion provider.
Citing violations of free speech and equal access rights, three Waco women filed a suit last month in federal court after they were barred from Planned Parenthood’s Audre Rapoport Library, which had become part of the city’s public library system.
The suit seeks unspecified damages, an injunction to prevent Planned Parenthood from blocking access to people who have protested against abortion and a declaration the women’s constitutional rights were violated.
Planned Parenthood’s decision to withdraw its library from the system is “a clear admission of guilt,” insisted Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of the Plano, Texas-based Liberty Legal Institute, which represented the women.
“Rather than make their policies comply with the Constitution, Planned Parenthood has pulled out of the public library system in Waco, so they can continue to discriminate against patrons who disagree with their viewpoint on abortion,” Shackelford said in a statement.
Pam Smallwood, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Central Texas, said the group regretted “the necessity to end our successful collaboration” with Waco.
“Although we support an individual’s right to exercise their First Amendment freedom of speech, we must reserve the right to exclude individuals from our library in order that our security not be undermined,” she said, according to a statement.
“Given the level of violence perpetrated on women’s health-care providers in the United States, Planned Parenthood of Central Texas simply cannot risk placing our patients and staff in jeopardy,” said Smallwood.
However, she said the Audre Rapoport Library will continue to make its resources available to the public. Under the agreement, the library system allowed Planned Parenthood to use its cataloging system in exchange for access to educational materials in the group’s library on sexuality and health.
Shackleford said the suit likely would be dropped if Planned Parenthood admits its partnership with the library system was unconstitutional and agrees not to undertake such an effort again, the Waco Tribune-Herald reported.
“Our goal was to make sure if the government is involved in something that people are not discriminated against,” Shackelford told the newspaper. “Obviously we’ll look at it and see what they are actually going to do. But it won’t change the fact that a violation occurred.”
As WorldNetDaily reported, one of the area’s most vocal pro-life advocates filed a similar suit against Planned Parenthood and the city in March.
Rusty Thomas, who is suing with the help of the California-based United States Justice Foundation, said he will consult with his attorney before deciding whether to pursue the suit, which also requests unspecified damages, the Waco paper said.
Thomas, formerly a leader with the group later known as Operation Rescue, had criticized city officials for allowing an “unholy alliance” between Waco, Planned Parenthood and the library.