By James Tillman

WASHINGTON, August 13, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com)—Washington city officials have admitted that the sidewalk outside of a Planned Parenthood abortuary is in fact public property, not private property as Planned Parenthood had claimed.  The city has therefore retreated from its threat to arrest as a trespasser anyone who prays on the sidewalk.

“Now that Planned Parenthood’s lie has been exposed, it is time for the City to demand that the signs that falsely claim the public land as private property be removed,” said Operation Rescue’s President Troy Newman.

Pro-lifers have prayed and counseled for years on the sidewalk in front of the Planned Parenthood, but earlier this year Planned Parenthood built a fence around the yard and put up signs claiming that the area was private property.

On June 8, Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, was arrested while praying and reading the Bible within this area.

Jim Henderson of the American Center for Law and Justice told LSN at the time that Planned Parenthood's claim was false.  He said that District of Columbia owns everything within 50 feet of the curb face on the street—practically up to the front doors of the Planned Parenthood.  He also said that when Planned Parenthood had attempted to put up a fence before it had even been cited for illegal construction.

"We thank God for this important victory for free speech, public prayer and the First Amendment," said Patrick Mahoney. "The City of Washington, D.C. got it right when they reversed their tragic decision to arrest American citizens for simply praying on a public sidewalk."

He also warned, however, that pro-life efforts against Planned Parenthood must continue with equal force.

"If we did not stand for our rights and go to jail; if we did not mount an aggressive legal effort and if we did not invite people do come from around the country to pray on the public sidewalk even under the threat of arrest, that sidewalk would still be closed to the First Amendment."

He continued: "This struggle reminds us all of the famous quote from Thomas Jefferson in which he said, 'Eternal Vigilance is the price of liberty.'  We must recognize that our rights, freedoms and liberties must be constantly defended."

The city's admission comes on the eve of the "A Time to Stand" project, in which pro-life activists from around the country were going to challenge the city’s ban on prayer on public property and thereby risk arrest. 

Advocates of unborn rights still plan to gather on Saturday, August 14, at 10:00 AM to pray and counsel on the public sidewalk.

"We encourage everyone that can to attend tomorrow’s gathering in front of the Planned Parenthood in Washington, D.C. to exercise their legal right to pray and offer help to abortion-bound women there," Newman said. 

He also said that pro-lifers must continue to be vigilant so that Planned Parenthood does not turn the law against them.

"If we ignore our rights, you can bet that Planned Parenthood will be more than happy to try to take them away again so that they can continue the unabated abortion of innocent babies," he said.  "We must assert our rights not for ourselves, but on behalf of the babies that would surely perish if we were not allowed to make a public stand against the killing.”

See related stories on LifeSiteNews.com:

D.C. Prohibits Prayer and Free Speech on Sidewalk outside Planned Parenthood
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/jun/10060403.html

Pastor Arrested for Praying in Front of Washington Abortion Facility
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/jun/10060911.html

Pro-lifers to Challenge Prayer Ban on Walkway in Front of Planned Parenthood
http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/aug/10080301.html