August 21, 2020

House Judiciary and Oversight Committee Republicans Confront Authorities on Arrests of Pro-Life Advocates

SFLA student leader Erica Caporaletti being arrested
photo credit: SFLA
Republican representatives on the House Judiciary Committee and House Oversight Committee have called on the Assistant Attorney General and Washington D.C. Mayor to produce documents and attend briefings regarding the arrest of pro-life advocates in front of a D.C. Planned Parenthood clinic.

On August 1, pro-life advocates with Students for Life of America (SFLA) were arrested outside of the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic for chalking pro-life messages on the sidewalk in front of the building. The advocates were originally there to paint the words "Black Preborn Lives Matter" on the street in front of the clinic. This was in response to the mayor allowing the phrases "Black Lives Matter" and "Defund the Police" to remain painted on the road for an extended period of time.

SFLA claimed that it had received a permit to paint in front of the clinic, but they were confronted by police when they arrived with their temporary paint. Several advocates defied police requests by chalking pro-life messages on the sidewalk, and they were arrested as a result.

“This incident, in light of the District allowing other political messages to appear on public property, raises troubling questions about whether the District is respecting the constitutional rights of individuals in a viewpoint-neutral manner,” Representatives Jim Jordan and James Comer wrote to Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband.

“The District’s prohibition of the ‘Black Pre-Born Lives Matter’ message suggests that the District may have engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination in light of the District’s allowance for other political messages on public property,” they continued. They noted that the District of Columbia only recently removed the "Defund the Police" street painting after leaving it for over two months.

Jordan and Comer asked the Justice Department to give a staff-level briefing on how the office “evaluates and addresses unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination on public property” by Sept. 1.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's office was asked to “produce all documents and communications between June 1, 2020 and the present referring or relating the arrest of the individuals associated with the Students for Life of America on August 1, 2020.” Jordan and Comer say that her office must provide the documents by Aug. 24 and brief their committees by Aug. 26.