The Life Legal Defense Foundation has come to the defense of pro-life advocates in Jackson, Mississippi. The sidewalk counselors were arrested and threatened by police for their peaceful, legal pro-life activities on the public sidewalk outside the state’s only abortion clinic, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
In a letter last week to the Jackson County Prosecutor, Attorney Allison Aranda, Senior Staff Counsel for Life Legal Defense Foundation, explained the case: “The Jackson Police Department has claimed to be enforcing an obstruction ordinance that makes it unlawful for ‘any person to place…signs…or any obstruction of any kind upon any street, avenue, alley or sidewalk within the city.’ By law, this ordinance must not impinge upon the constitutional exercise of free speech on the public sidewalk. The harassed pro-life citizens have routinely stood, walked, held signs, handed out literature and occasionally sat in a chair due to medical limitations – all on the public sidewalk. Such use of the streets and public places is part of the privilege of being a citizen, one that the United States Courts have firmly stated ‘must not, in the guise of regulation, be abridged or denied.’”
Police application of this questionable ordinance has been selective and prejudicial, according to Aranda. She stated that abortion clinic escorts have been documented leaving lawn chairs, signs, and other personal items on the public right of way overnight to “stake out” territory for the next day, yet only those opposing abortion have been targeted for persecution.
Life Legal Defense Foundation’s letter called for the Jackson Police Department to stop its disparate treatment towards and perpetual harassment of these citizens. If it does not, Aranda assured that legal action will be taken in federal court to protect the free speech rights of these pro-life advocates.
Pro-life vigils outside of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization increased after an injured woman was photographed being transported by emergency responders via ambulance from the clinic following a botched abortion in August – the very same week abortionist Bruce Norman had his Birmingham, Alabama practice privileges stripped by permanent court injunction.
Life Legal Defense Foundation was instrumental in shutting down the Derzis/Norman operation in Birmingham, and Executive Director Dana Cody announced that they intend to do the same thing in Jackson. She declared, “Abortionist Norman is still open for business in Jackson and we intend to shut him down there too. We also intend to see that Jackson law enforcement stops harassing sidewalk counselors who have every right to protest at that location.”