June 4, 2021

Appeals Court Reverses Decision Blocking New Yorkers from Gathering Outside Abortion Facility

On June 3, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals vacated its own ruling which prevented pro-lifers from gathering outside an abortion business to counsel women.

13 pro-life advocates were targeted by former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in 2017 when he filed a legal case claiming that the pro-lifers were threatening and violent. Schneiderman hoped to establish a buffer zone, end a weekly pro-life vigil, and force the pro-lifers to pay financial penalties. Because Schneiderman had no evidence to support this accusation, the district court ruled in favor of the pro-lifers.

On March 10, 2021, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court's decision. In its opinion, it ruled that simple actions such as handing pamphlets to people outside a clinic could be viewed as a "use of force" and violate New York law.

The pro-life Thomas More Society, which represented the accused pro-lifers, responded to this ruling by calling on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to have an en banc hearing, but the court surprised many by reversing its own ruling.

“The petitions for rehearing are GRANTED,” the ruling reads. “The panel hereby VACATES its previous opinion. Accordingly, the decision of the district court remains in place.”

“It appears that even the judges in the majority on the panel found their original opinion indefensible,” said Thoms More Society Senior Counsel Stephen Crampton. “We are pleased that the fundamental First Amendment rights of our clients have been restored, and look forward to returning to the district court and finishing the case once and for all.”

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