Anti-Choice Group Sues Jackson, Mississippi, Police Department, Claiming Free Speech Violations

The anti-choice Life Legal Defense Foundation filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Wednesday against the Jackson, Mississippi, police department. The suit, filed on behalf of Pro-Life Mississippi, accuses the department of “blatant and ongoing violation of free speech rights of pro-life advocates.”

The complaint cites incidents dating back to 1996 in which the Jackson police detained, threatened arrest, and arrested Pro-Life Mississippi members while protesting what is today the state’s only remaining abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. According to the suit, in most cases the charges were dismissed but personal belongings confiscated by police were never returned, and there have been “frequent threats of arrest with no legal basis and continual harassment of pro-life advocates by police outside of the abortion vendor’s business.”

Life Legal Defense Foundation President and Executive Director Dana Cody said in a statement that the Jackson police “routinely harassed pro-life citizens, who have been peacefully exercising their legal right to oppose abortion in the public square and offer information about life-affirming alternatives to women seeking abortion.”

The Life Legal Defense Foundation is a California-based organization that has been targeting clinics that provide abortion care with lawsuits, including in neighboring Alabama, where the group has threatened to “[throw] up roadblocks” against the Alabama Women’s Center’s possible move to a new location in northwest Huntsville.

The Jackson clinic is faced with near constant protests from anti-choice activists, and neither the state nor the city has a buffer zone law to protect the safety and privacy of patients, clinic staff, and others entering and leaving the facility. Michelle Colon, a volunteer escort at the clinic, described the hostile environment around the clinic to the Huffington Post; incidents have included car accidents due to protesters blocking the driveway into the clinic’s parking lot and protesters taking photographs and video of patients and staff. “This is not any type of protest behavior that would be tolerated at any other facility for any other cause in any other part of the country,” she said.

Mississippi’s legislature has passed a number of laws to restrict access to reproductive health care in the state. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and state lawmakers have recently targeted the Jackson Women’s Health Organization with restrictions and regulations, including requiring abortion providers to get admitting privileges at a local hospital. Dr. Willie Parker, the physician who provides abortion care at the clinic, has been denied admitting privileges despite previously having had them in Chicago. During testimony before a U.S. Senate committee hearing earlier this month, he said that hospitals have declined to even evaluate his application.

It is common for hospitals to deny admitting privileges for abortion doctors for political or public relations reasons.

“Some people ask if I am concerned for my own safety,” Parker said in his testimony. “Of course I am. But I am less concerned for my safety than for what will happen to women if I am not there to provide the care [women] need and deserve.”

Gov. Bryant has said that it is his goal to “end abortion in Mississippi.

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  • dudebro

    I was recently told by a friend that a pro lifer stated that the line “don’t want an abortion don’t have one” = OPPRESSION.

    • StealthGaytheist

      Those types think that they’re being oppressed because we have Free Speech (and use it) just like they do.

      • Alex Hunter

        Those types are the reason dictatorships still exist. No government is going to give its people a voice if they’re just going to use it to harass and throw tantrums.

      • colleen2

        Women who do not share their beliefs refusing to suffer and die for their beliefs is what these sick, pathetic men and women call religious oppression.

    • Alex Hunter

      These are the same people who preach that if you don’t want a baby then you shouldn’t have sex.
      Then they pick fights, face retaliation and cry about how they were being bullied for expressing their opinions and that anyone who disagrees with them advocates violence.

    • catseye

      That’s because they don’t hold themselves to the same standards they do everybody else. There’s a brilliant article by a former clinic employee titled, “The only moral abortion is MY abortion”. I’d post a link except this $%#$^$%&$% Windows 8 crap is damn near impossible to navigate.

  • fiona64

    The right to free speech does not include the right to assault (screaming at someone is assault), battery (touching someone without permission is battery … and that includes shoving a leaflet into their hands) … or a captive audience.

    • colleen2

      Apparently that is not true. Our Roman Catholic majority SCOTUS characterizes these people as “gentle sidewalk counselors”. Just imagine what the American Taliban would be like if they were aggressive and violent.

  • http://CCFIILE.COM/ Jim Rizoli

    Free speech only exist to those that want to stop YOUR free speech.
    I produced 4 local cable shows in my town for many years and the Jews didn’t like my criticism of them on many different issues.
    So they conspired with the ADL and got my shows removed when all they had to do was move them to a latter time at night if they were that concerned.
    This is what you call censorship working at its best from a group of people who should know better…ya think?

    Jim Rizoli
    jjrizo on youtube

    • dudebro

      Oh, so you’re a racist pos.

      • Jennifer Starr

        Yeah he’s a neo-nazi, all right.

    • fiona64

      Your right to free speech does not encompass the right to hate speech. Just so you know.

      • RizoliTV

        Here we go with the hate speech crap, whatever that means. Hate speech meaning anything you disagree with right, is hate speech.
        Would you consider the Declaration of Independence a form of hate speech? Because it certainly didn’t agree with the king of England.
        The Bible says to “hate what is bad”, so apparently God, being the author of the Bible, would be a hater to because his spoken word condemns sin.

        • fiona64

          I think we’re all pretty clear on what constitutes hate speech … and your anti-Semitism is a good example.

        • Arekushieru

          SOMEONE needs to find a dictionary in order to understand the SIMPLEST of terms, I see.

        • Jennifer Starr

          Do you have an actual point here, or are you just blowing hot air?

  • JamieHaman

    Maybe it’s time for pro-choice folks to start videoing the forced birthers, and bringing those recordings to their churches. Let their own church members see and hear how these forced birthers treat and threaten these women over legal health care.
    Publish names and addresses just like they do.

    • Cait McKnelly

      Voice of Choice is doing that. USE IT.
      VOC was actually sued by a coalition of bullies because their names showed up on the website. The suit was thrown out of court. We CAN win against these people.

      • JamieHaman

        Thank You for sharing this news, and the link. I had no idea this was already happening.

        • Cait McKnelly

          Your welcome. And by the way, a lot of clinic escorts are also video recording protesters. They do it for their protection and they have taken many to court for assault and won because of it. They also do it for their security. Many protestors have attempted to falsely accuse THEM of assault and having video that proves otherwise has been invaluable.
          The protesters HATE the clinic escorts because they block them from their “prey”.

      • Jennifer Starr

        It’s funny how they think it’s their right to put up the addresses and personal information of doctors and clinic workers and protest in front of their homes, and yet they have the nerve to cry foul when their names show up on a website. Hypocrites.

  • PamelaWatters

    They can “bring it” to Huntsville, Alabama. They have no grounds for their lawsuit & ARRA (Alabama Reproductive Rights Advocates) are currently looking into bringing a defamation lawsuit against the Huntsville anti-abortion leaders and the Life Legal Defense Foundation for slanderous remarks published about the clinic volunteers, owner and physicians.