Today a St. Louis Circuit Court judge dismissed charges against pro-life activists, Brian Westbrook, executive director of Coalition for Life St. Louis, and Rita Sparrow, veteran sidewalk counselor, for a peaceful demonstration outside the local Planned Parenthood.
In June 2012, St. Louis police accused Mr. Westbrook of "False Advertising" for displaying a sign outside of PP that let women entering know that there were "Free Pregnancy Tests and Ultrasounds" available at the nearby Thrive ultrasound van (parked right across the street).
The City claimed that, because Westbrook himself was not providing the free tests or ultrasounds, his sign was deceptive and misleading.
Associate Circuit Judge Michael Noble dismissed the charges.
This is not the first time the St. Louis police have misapplied an ordinance. In October 2012, they charged Rita Sparrow with "littering with household goods" after she used a folding chair to hold up her signs and a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary on a lawn chair next to the driveway into Planned Parenthood in St. Louis. The charge against Ms. Sparrow was that she violated the City's "Anti-Littering Ordinance," which forbids placement of unattended personal property on city property, such as public sidewalks, parks, etc.
After hearing the City's police officer testimony and looking at a video that showed other objects on the parkway near the driveway in addition to Ms. Sparrow's lawn chair, the judge threw out the case too. He commented that there was no evidence that Ms. Sparrow had ever left her lawn chair unattended, and he compared the City's charge in Ms. Sparrow's case to the City charging those attending a concert in a city park and bringing their lawn chairs for that purpose.
Representing the pro-lifers were Gerard Nieters of O'Fallon, Missouri, special counsel hired by Thomas More Society from Chicago, and Tom Brejcha, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Society. Brejcha argued the motions to dismiss both charges, while Nieters conducted the trial proceedings held in Ms. Sparrow's case before Judge Noble dismissed the charge after the presentation of the City's evidence was completed.
In one part of his argument, the City attorney argued that by having the signs, Westbrook was "taking business away from" the targeted business, (which would be Planned Parenthood). This one statement shows the underlying motive for the charges - protecting Planned Parenthood and not helping women see that they have a choice - which goes against the whole "pro-choice" argument.
"Dismissal of these charges constitutes a big victory for all pro-lifers in St. Louis, Missouri, and elsewhere, as the Planned Parenthood facility is the only abortion provider left in our entire state," said Gerry Nieters, attorney for defendants, in a press release. "Furthermore, the judge's dismissal of the City's charges in both these cases is of major importance for protecting citizens' First Amendment rights."
Tags : Pro-Life