NEW YORK (LifeSiteNews) — 40 Days for Life filed a federal lawsuit recently against Westchester County in New York for its “buffer zones” around abortion facilities which are designed to prevent pro-life individuals from peacefully engaging with women seeking abortions in an effort to get them to change their mind.
The buffer zone, implemented in June 2022, is specifically designed to “ensure safe access to reproductive health care facilities,” according to the legislative summary.
The law illegally interferes with the rights of pro-life activists in three ways, according to a media statement shared with LifeSiteNews.
It “[p]rohibits pro-life volunteers [from] ‘approach[ing]’ any person within the eight-foot buffer zone radius” and it criminalizes anyone who “interfere[s] with the operations of a healthcare facility.”
Furthermore, the law vaguely prohibits “the offering of literature or the display of a sign that ‘hinders’ the forward movement of the recipient, which would include cars stopping to converse with a pro-life advocate.”
“Rather than focusing on the rampant uptick in violence against pro-life groups nationwide, Westchester County seeks to silence civil, peaceful pro-life volunteers through draconian and unwarranted criminal and civil penalties,” 40 Days for Life wrote in a statement. “Imposing these unlawful and overreaching buffer zones demonstrates that Westchester County is not concerned about women’s safety and does not want women to have the full facts about abortion and pro-life alternatives.”
“Instead, Westchester County prioritizes snuffing out the lives of unborn babies before a mother’s mind could be swayed by a peaceful, loving pro-life advocate,” the group stated.
Shawn Carney, CEO and president of 40 Days for Life, said everyone should be concerned about this attack on free speech.
“40 Days for Life is proudly protecting free speech for all Americans, especially our one million volunteers who have peacefully assembled outside of abortion facilities since 2004,” he stated. “If Westchester, New York, blinded by their bigotry toward pro-life Americans, is allowed to implement buffer zones successfully, they will trample upon the most basic American value, freedom of speech, assembly, and religion.”
“Any advocate of freedom of speech, indeed, every American, should be appalled by the latest antics to come out of New York,” he stated. “40 Days for Life will never stop defending, in the courts and the streets, the rights of pro-life advocates to peacefully pray.”
40 Days for Life argued in the lawsuit that the county adopted the law to stop peaceful pro-life protests like those carried out by Father Christopher “Fidelis” Moscinski.
The lawsuit states that “the pretext for adoption of the challenged provisions of Chapter 425 was a peaceful sit-in on November 27, 2021, at a Westchester County medical facility that provides abortions, conducted by a Franciscan friar and Catholic priest, Father Christopher Moscinski, and two laymen.”
These pro-life individuals “hand out roses to women contemplating abortions with a note attached that says: ‘You were made to love and be loved… Your goodness is greater than the difficulties of your situation. Circumstances change. A new life, however tiny, brings the promise of unrepeatable joy.'”
The new regulations, 40 Days for Life attorneys argued, “were specifically designed to suppress speech and expressive conduct on public sidewalks and rights-of-way by the Plaintiffs and other pro-life advocates and counselors, who have never trespassed at any abortion clinic nor committed any other crime in connection with their peaceable First Amendment-protected activity.”