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Pro-life groups sue DC over arrests outside Planned Parenthood, usurping free speech

Police arrest Students for Life members outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington, D.C.

Two pro-life groups have filed a lawsuit against Washington, D.C., over the arrest of two pro-life advocates for writing “Black Preborn Lives Matter” with a piece of chalk outside a Planned Parenthood abortion facility.

The lawsuit was filed by Alliance Defending Freedom on behalf of The Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life of America.

“The city shouldn’t be able to silence and punish us for expressing ideas that it doesn’t agree with,” said Frederick Douglass Foundation Virginia Chapter President J.R. Gurley in a statement on Wednesday.

“Government officials can’t discriminate against peaceful displays on the basis of our beliefs about abortion when they have allowed other groups the same avenues to express their beliefs. If the mayor allows other messages to be painted and chalked, we should be able to express our views in the same manner without fear of unjust government punishment.”

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told that city officials “were not content to stop a message in temporary paint.

“Two students were arrested trying to express in chalk what they were not allowed to say in paint,” she said. “That kind of viewpoint discrimination cannot be allowed to continue unchallenged.”

Students for Life had obtained a permit to express their views using tempera paint after the city had allowed other groups to do the same in voicing their messages to defund the police. 

Elissa Graves, ADF legal counsel, agrees, adding: “The government can’t discriminate against certain viewpoints by allowing some voices to be heard while silencing others. Because of the city’s actions, Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life of America weren’t able to participate in the public square as other groups have. The First Amendment prohibits the government from picking and choosing whose speech to allow.

ADF said in a separate statement about the case that, “every individual and organization should be able to peacefully express their beliefs, but the District is picking winners and silencing those who hold views it doesn’t like. That’s unconstitutional.” … The government can’t pick winners and losers when it comes to free speech. It has a duty to uphold that freedom for all of its citizens — whether or not it agrees with them.

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