Webmaster's note: The following is a press release issued from the AFA.
June 15, 2001
City Backs Down – Pro-life Activities Resume
TUPELO, MS.- Friday morning, police in Bridgeport, Connecticut abruptly changed course in the face of a federal lawsuit and rescinded a police order that infringed constitutional rights of peaceful sidewalk counselors and pro-life advocates located outside Summit Women’s Health Center, an abortion clinic. The police had illegally been enforcing a court injunction and selectively enforcing a local loitering ordinance against pro-life activists, prohibiting them from exercising their First Amendment rights on a public sidewalk. The AFA Center for Law & Policy (the Center) is hopeful that this move is a significant and lasting recognition of important First Amendment rights.
The sidewalk counselors are men and women who offer alternatives to abortion on the sidewalks adjacent to the abortion clinic. Several of the women have had abortions themselves. They counsel clinic clients against abortion, and encourage alternatives such as adoption. They also share with clinic clients their own post-abortion tragedy and trauma, offering literature, prayer and aid to those in crisis.
In 1997, a federal district court issued an injunction against a lone, unrelated abortion protester requiring him to refrain from certain aggressive activities and to remain a prescribed distance from the abortion clinic and the clinic’s clients. Both the district court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals were clear that this injunction applied only to a single individual and recognized that these restrictions touched on activity that lies at the heart of the First Amendment.
Last month, the Bridgeport Police began applying the injunction against all pro-life advocates and counselors at the clinic. This application was the culmination of a year-long pattern of police harassment of peaceful pro-life activists. The Center responded by filing suit in federal district court against the abortion clinic, the City of Bridgeport, and several Bridgeport police officers. This lawsuit alleges that these and other unnamed defendants conspired to violate the constitutional rights of pro-life advocates who counsel abortion seekers at or near the clinic.
"The city has finally chosen to respect the First Amendment rights of pro-lifers," commented Stephen M. Crampton, Chief Counsel for the Center. "It is unfortunate that a federal lawsuit was necessary to restore constitutional rights that others enjoy as a matter of course. The application of the injunction against our clients was utterly lawless from the beginning," added Mr. Crampton. "We intend to vigorously pursue the full and final resolution of this matter in order to vindicate the rights of our clients," said litigation counsel Michael J. DePrimo.
The AFA Center for Law & Policy is the legal arm of the American Family Association, Inc., located in Tupelo, Mississippi, and Washington, D.C. The Center restricts its practice to constitutional litigation in state and federal courts throughout the country.
For more information, contact Michael J. DePrimo at (601) 680-3886