Maryland to pay $385,000 to pro-life group for unlawful arrests: will train troopers on Constitution
BEL AIR, MARYLAND, March 8, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The state of Maryland is paying $385,000 to a pro-life group and training state police officers about the Constitution as part of a settlement after violating the pro-life protesters’ First and Fourth Amendment rights in 2008.
In August 2008, 18 members of Defend Life peacefully demonstrated along a roadway as part of their “Face the Truth” campaign, when 12 Maryland State Police officers handcuffed and arrested them, and transported them to the Hartford County Detention Center in Bel Air, Maryland. Some members of the group – which included three women and two minors, aged 14 and 17– were put into leg shackles, subjected to two strip searches, denied the right to make phone calls, and denied contact with attorneys Steve Peroutka and Scott Whiteman.
The following month, nine members filed a federal lawsuit before the U.S. District of Maryland, represented by attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, the Thomas More Society of Chicago, and the American Catholic Lawyers Association.
The Maryland Board of Public Works voted Wednesday to settle their lawsuit. In addition to the monetary award, state troopers must implement a review of the Constitution within 120 days of the settlement’s approval.
Jack Ames, director and founder of Defend Life, said in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com, “Thanks be to God! The good news is that the First Amendment still lives in Maryland. Our Founding Fathers who so wisely enshrined the right of free speech into our Constitution would be extremely pleased.”
“We’re glad to hear this news, which is certainly a vindication of the position we took in the federal lawsuit, which we filed and prosecuted over the last three-and-a-half years, along with the Alliance Defense Fund and America Catholic Lawyers Association,” attorney Tom Brejcha, president of the Thomas More Society in Chicago, told LifeSiteNews.com.
“That amount bespeaks the seriousness of the conduct of the Maryland State Police,” he said. “The settlement includes a mandate for training on First Amendment rights, and we trust there will be no recurrence in the future of this misconduct.”
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Defend Life had conducted its protests, which use graphic images of aborted children, in the state since 2001 without incident. However, Ames told LifeSiteNews.com he later learned “plain-clothes Maryland State Police had conducted secret surveillance of the 2007 Defend Life Face the Truth Tour in Westminster, Maryland.” The following year, state troopers asked the group to disperse and leave the area before arresting the protesters at the intersection of Routes 24 and 924, just north of I-95.
“They had a hard time figuring out what to charge them with, because frankly they didn’t violate any criminal laws, so they made up a couple,” Brejcha told LifeSiteNews. “They said they didn’t have a permit to conduct the demonstration, and there was no such permit requirement in force.” Ultimately, police charged them with loitering, disorderly conduct and failure to obey a lawful order.
All charges against the pro-lifers were dismissed at the first trial.
The real reason for the arrest, Brejcha said, was something else entirely.
As part of a Freedom of Information Act request, he said, “we netted a harvest of police phone and radio call transcripts, which showed the reason for the arrests were complaints from the public, members of whom were upset about the content of the signs.” He said that represents a classic case of “a heckler’s veto,” a violation of the First Amendment. “The whole purpose of the First Amendment is to allow folks to speak openly and freely with political messages,” he said.
Prejudice and hostility against pro-lifers may also play a role, he said.
“We also had a really obnoxious, repugnant quotation on the radio by a notorious Sgt. [Dona] Bohlen, a lady who said of the protesters after their arrest, ‘they can sit in a cell for an hour… or three or four and rot.’ So there was a lot of hard feelings and animus against the pro-life position on the part of many of these arresting officers, including at the supervisory level.”
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Last July, Judge Richard Bennett ruled, “a reasonable police officer faced with the facts confronted by the Defendants would have known that, in ordering the demonstrators to leave Harford County, he would violate the Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights. Moreover, arresting the Plaintiffs for exercising those rights was a violation of the Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment rights.”
“This settlement, reached during an appeal by the Troopers to the Fourth Circuit, follows a ruling by the lower court that our clients’ rights were violated as a matter of law and that the trial would be to determine damages only,” said Christopher A. Ferrara, president and chief counsel of ACLA, in a statement e-mailed to LifeSiteNews.com. ACLA represented seven of the arrestees.
Brejcha told LifeSiteNews the case took nearly four years to conclude because it was “vigorously defended by the municipalities and the state police. It took a good bit of persistence and efforts on the part of the lawyers who were working in the case.”
Hartford County settled with the group last year.
Brejcha said his group and others are filing new lawsuits to protect the rights of pro-life protesters nationwide. The Thomas More Society is currently overseeing two cases of police overreach in Delaware and Massachusetts.
“There are a lot of police officers whose good, hard efforts and support of people’s rights we applaud, but there are these bad apples, and one by one we’ve got to go after them and make sure that our rights are respected everywhere,” Brejacha said.
Ames said he was pleased with this settlement. “This historic decision should embolden Pro-Life activists all across America to continue to take to the streets, exposing the reality of pre-born child killing until the day comes that abortion is not only illegal in American, but also unthinkable!”
Planned Parenthood closes Iowa abortion facility because of low business
DUBUQUE, Iowa, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Planned Parenthood closed an Iowa abortion facility on Friday, noting low business that left the facility unsustainable from a financial standpoint.
Although Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced in January that it planned to close the Dubuque, Iowa, office, pro-life sidewalk counselors were overjoyed on Friday to read the sign in the window that read: “Our office is closed, effective April 28, 2016.”
The office did not perform surgical abortions but did provide medication abortions to the community of about 58,000.
“Rejoice with us for the lives of unborn children saved!” Iowa Right to Life said in a statement after the closure.
As with numerous other closures, Planned Parenthood, which styles itself a provider of “care no matter what,” emphasized it was closing its doors to preserve its bottom line.
“After assessing the shifting health care landscape, changing demographics, and the challenges of operating in areas with low patient volumes, we made the tough decision to close the Dubuque Health Center,” the group said in an announcement. “This change allows us to expand hours and see more patients in Cedar Rapids, where there is unmet demand due to lack of clinician hours.”
“While we regret making this change, we know it is a necessary step in order to continue our mission to provide, promote and protect reproductive and sexual health through health services, education and advocacy. Patients have been notified, and if they wish, they can receive a broader array of services at our health center in Cedar Rapids, where we have expanded hours to accommodate more patient,” Planned Parenthood said.
American Life League’s vice president, Jim Sedlak, remembers speaking to the county right to life group nine years ago.
“I told them at the time that they needed to protest outside Planned Parenthood at least once a week,” he said. “They told me they would do better than that. Over the last eight years, these dedicated pro-lifers were outside Planned Parenthood every hour it was open. And now...it’s closed for good.”
That aligns with advice that David Bereit, the founder of 40 Days for Life, once told young people who wanted to know how to end abortion.
Be loving and compassionate, he said.
“Your peaceful, loving presence out there flies in the face of all the stereotypes they want to throw onto us,” he added. “When you show them love instead of condemnation, when you show them peace and joy instead of anger and judgment, that will begin to break down the walls.”
Iowa Right to Life credited just such tactics with closing an office in Red Oak that performed webcam abortions. “Planned Parenthood shut down in Red Oak in large part because of the constant, prayerful presence outside their clinic,” the group said.
Upon hearing of the latest abortion facility shuttering, the Dubuque County Right to Life said that Planned Parenthood isn't the only group that will move its base of operations. “We will probably put our efforts in Cedar Rapids and will continue to spread the pro-life message,” said Executive Director Marian Bourek.
Ted Cruz confronted by mom who supports aborting disabled babies…just like hers
MARION, Indiana, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Senator Ted Cruz was met on the campaign trail by a mother who strongly opposed a state pro-life law that would have protected children with birth conditions – like her own.
Andrea DeBruler, a 41-year-old nurse, confronted the presidential hopeful in the city of Marion as Cruz campaigned with Gov. Mike Pence.
DeBruler first asked Cruz, then Pence, about House Bill 1337, which bans abortions performed due to the child's race, sex, or disability, such as Down syndome.
DeBruler held up a picture of her daughter, Jania, who was born with cerebral palsy. “This was a choice,” she said.
She asked Sen. Cruz if he supported the bill, which made Indiana the second state in the nation to ban abortion for Down syndrome, after North Dakota.
“I'm not Governor Pence,” he replied. “But I'll tell you this: I believe in protecting human life.”
Pence, who endorsed Cruz in today's make-or-break Indiana primary, listened to her objections.
“I'm not here as a Republican, I'm not here as a Democrat. I'm here as a woman, a woman with choices, choices that you guys should not make,” DeBruler said.
After hearing that she felt many families lacked sufficient resources to care for children, especially in an area like Marion, Gov. Pence offered to connect her with social services.
“God bless her,” he said, looking at Jania's picture, “and God bless you.”
Though it may be unusual to encounter a woman arguing for the right to abort her own child, the governor handled it calmly. Pence had specifically reflected on “precious moments” he spent with “families of children with disabilities, especially those raising children with Down syndrome” when he signed the bill into law in March.
"We are truly thankful for the passage of this historic legislation by the Indiana House and applaud the new civil rights protections this bill creates for unborn children, as well as the new provisions this bill establishes for the humane final disposition of aborted babies," Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter said at the time.
DeBruler told the UK media outlet The Independent that H.B. 1337 “means you can no longer have an abortion based on deformity. I’m against this law, because I think it should be a woman’s choice” to abort for any reason.
Congressional Democrats made similar statements during hearings last month for Rep. Trent Franks' federal Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), with Congressman John Conyers saying the bill is “patently unconstitutional,” because a woman has the right to abort a child before viability for any reason.
Both leading contenders for the Democratic nomination expressed their displeasure with the law, which protects unborn children from racial or sexual discrimination, as well as discrimination on the basis of an inborn trait like mental capacity.
When Gov. Pence signed the law, Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted:
The decision to have an abortion is for a woman to make, not the Governor of Indiana. https://t.co/1VOroXS2br— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 24, 2016
Hillary Clinton later said, “I commend the women of this state, young and old, for standing up against this governor and this legislature.”
DeBruler told The Independent, despite her comment about not being a Democrat or a Republican, she is in fact a Democrat and will vote for Hillary Clinton in today's primary.
The moral challenge to Cardinal Wuerl in pending Notre Dame outrage
May 3, 2016 (CatholicCulture) -- In 2009, when the University of Notre Dame invited President Barack Obama to deliver a commencement address, dozens of American bishops lodged loud public protests. Yet this year, as Notre Dame prepares to confer an even greater honor on Vice President Joe Biden (together with former House Speaker John Boehner), the silence from the hierarchy is deafening.
Back in 2009, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston said that Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama was “very disappointing,”, while then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan termed it a “big mistake.” The late Bishop John D’Arcy, then leader of the Indiana diocese in which the university is located, spoke of “the terrible breach which has taken place between Notre Dame and the Church.” For the first time in his 25 years of service to the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, Bishop D’Arcy declined to attend the Notre Dame commencement exercises; instead he addressed a protest rally organized by pro-life students, faculty, alumni, and staff.
These prelates and others explained their dismay by referring to the statement “Catholics in Political Life,” released in 2004 by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. In that document, the bishops reflected on the need to maintain a consistent public witness in defense of human life, and therefore to distance themselves from public officials who support legal abortion. The statement set forth a clear policy that Catholic institutions should not give public honors to “pro-choice” politicians:
The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.
By giving President Obama an honorary degree and offering him an opportunity to speak at graduation, Notre Dame clearly violated that policy. University officials could offer only garbled partial defenses, claiming that they were honoring Obama not because he supports unrestricted abortion, but because he is President of the United States.
This year the university cannot offer even that lame defense of the decision to award the Laetare Medal to Vice President Biden. Unlike Obama, Biden is a Catholic, and by granting him this award the university is explicitly saying that the Vice President has “illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.” In other words, Notre Dame is honoring Vice President Biden as a Catholic political leader despite his unwavering support for abortion and same-sex marriage.
Give credit to Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the current leader of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, for raising a lonely voice of protest. “I believe it is wrong for Notre Dame to honor any ‘pro-choice’ public official with the Laetare Medal, even if he/she has other positive accomplishments in public service,” Bishop Rhoades said. But if any other bishops have joined him in that rebuke to Notre Dame, I must have missed their public announcements.
Some observers, of liberal political sympathies, have argued that it is wrong to honor John Boehner, too, because the former Speaker disagreed with the US bishops’ stand on immigration. This is a tired old argument, conflating disagreement with the bishops on a prudential political decision with defiance of Church teaching on a fundamental moral principle. But it is noteworthy that Notre Dame officials saw fit to make a joint award, no doubt in a cynical effort to dodge political criticism by choosing one honoree from each side of the political spectrum.
“We live in a toxic political environment where poisonous invective and partisan gamesmanship pass for political leadership,” said Father John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, in announcing the Laetare Award recipients. (Notice the pre-emptive suggestion that those who criticize the school’s choices may be engaged in “poisonous invective.”) He went on to make a tortured argument that although Notre Dame is honoring two politicians, it is not honoring them for what they have done in their political careers:
In recognizing both men, Notre Dame is not endorsing the policy positions of either, but celebrating two lives dedicated to keeping our democratic institutions working for the common good through dialogue focused on the issues and responsible compromise.
By now we all know the familiar dodges. The politician claims to oppose abortion personally, but to feel a delicate reticence about imposing his views on others. He says that we must be willing to compromise (even on life-and-death decisions). He insists that he is not “pro-abortion” but “pro-choice.”
That last bubble of rhetoric was unceremoniously burst by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, when he celebrated Mass at Georgetown after Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richard had delivered a lecture there. “The word ‘choice’ is a smokescreen,” he said, “behind which those killing unborn children take refuge. Every chance you get, blow that smoke away!”
Now Cardinal Wuerl himself has a chance to “blow that smoke away.” As things stand, he is scheduled to celebrate Mass at the Notre Dame commencement, and to receive an honorary degree. He could pull out; he could absent himself from the ceremonies, to ensure that he does not become part of an event that pays homage to a “pro-choice” Catholic politician.
And there is a precedent. Back in 2009, the Harvard legal scholar (and former US ambassador to the Holy See) Mary Ann Glendon was chosen to receive the Laetare Award. But when she learned that President Obama would be speaking, she announced her decision to decline the award. Clearly annoyed that her presence might be used to quiet the critics of the honor for Obama, Ambassador Glendon wrote that she did not want to be used as a counterweight, nor did she see the Notre Dame commencement as an appropriate venue for a genteel debate about legal abortion:
A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.
Could Cardinal Wuerl do this year what Ambassador Glendon did in 2009? Even at this late date, his withdrawal would send a powerful message of support for the right to life: an unmistakable rebuke to politicians who hide behind the smokescreen that the cardinal himself identified. To be sure, if he did withdraw, the cardinal would be caught in an avalanche of public criticism; he would suffer for his public witness. But there is a reason why cardinals wear red.
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