Governor sued for allowing abortion but suspending 1st Amendment during pandemic

By WND Staff

A lawsuit has been filed against Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for keeping abortion clinics open as “essential” businesses during the coronavirus pandemic while sending 15 officers to shut down the speech of pro-life protesters.

The case filed by the American Freedom Law Center on behalf of Andrew Belanger, Justin Phillips and Cal Zastrow also names the city of Detroit as a defendant.

The case centers on Whitmer’s March 24 executive order requiring Michigan residents to shelter in place and the subsequent decision by Detroit officials to “criminalize the free speech activity of peaceful, pro-life protesters.”

“While most businesses were forced to shut down as a result, the governor has refused to order abortion centers in Michigan to close even though abortion is an elective procedure,” the legal team explained.

“It is never necessary to protect the life of a mother, and it results in the death of an unborn child, which is contrary to the state goal of the executive order ‘to sustain or protect life.'”

The lawyers said the pro-life advocates, because abortion businesses remain open, “are compelled by their consciences to be witnesses for life by engaging in peaceful, free speech activities on the public sidewalks outside of abortion centers.”

“This activity is fully protected by the First Amendment,” the lawyers said.

Belanger was “exercising his First Amendment rights” outside the Scotsdale Women’s Center when “eight city of Detroit police vehicles and 15 city police officers arrived.”

The officers stated they were there “for a violation of a stay at home order by the governor.”

“The officers told the pro-lifers that while abortion was ‘essential’ under the governor’s order and thus permitted, the pro-lifers’ First Amendment activity was not ‘essential’ and thus unlawful,” the lawyers explained.

AFLC said that while the executive order criminalizes the pro-lifers’ exercise of their First Amendment rights on a public sidewalk, the order provides exceptions for individuals who want to use the public sidewalks “to engage in outdoor activity, including walking, hiking, running, cycling, or any other recreational activity.”

Robert Muise, senior counsel, said: “We only seek to prohibit the use of the executive order to criminalize our clients’ peaceful, free speech activity on the public sidewalks outside of abortion centers. … Indeed, under the current enforcement … our clients’ First Amendment activity is a crime. Yet, an individual could use the very same sidewalk to walk, hike, run, cycle or engage in other similar recreational activity.”

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