Ann Arbor, Michigan — A district judge in Michigan has issued a stipulating order allowing a pro-life sidewalk counselor to display a “free ultrasound” sign and others in his car outside of Planned Parenthood while his case moves forward in court.
As previously reported, Paul Dobrowolski was ticketed last year for displaying signs inside of his vehicle as part of his outreach to abortion-minded mothers. “Ask to See the Ultrasound,” “Abortion Hurts Women,” and “Free Ultrasound, Family Life Services, 2950 Packard, YPSI, 734-434-3088” were among the messages displayed in his legally-parked vehicle.
Police had reportedly told Dobrowolski that it was against the law for him to “advertise” on his car. The Ann Arbor city code prohibits parking on the street “for the principal purpose of . . . [d]isplaying advertising.” Since Dobrowolski’s sign was considered “advertising,” police asserted that he had violated the code, and issued the pro-lifer several tickets.
During a hearing for one of the incidents, a female police officer reportedly testified that she was directed by her supervisor to ticket Dobrowolski after a local business complained about the matter. The court found the sidewalk counselor guilty, advising that he “could have stored the signs in any other fashion [in the vehicle]; [he] could have laid them down; [or he] could have put them in the trunk” so that no one would read the messages and avoided legal penalties.
“But you don’t put them up in the window the way these things are with the desire for anything other than that somebody else is going to see them and that that person is going to be influenced by what they see,” the judge stated.
The court added that other signs besides Dobrowolski’s “free ultrasound” sign were permissible because they constituted “political speech” and not “advertising.”
The sidewalk counselor stated that he has had to pay fines for the alleged violations, and fears that he will continue to be cited should he continue to offer women free ultrasounds in that manner. Therefore, the American Freedom Law Center (AFLC) filed a suit on his behalf last month, asking the federal court to issue an injunction against the city and its police department from barring him from displaying the signs.
Now, U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain has agreed to grant Dobrowolski a preliminary injunction while his case moves forward in court.
“While this court order restores Mr. Dobrowolski’s constitutional rights while the case proceeds, the greater victory is the untold number of babies whose lives will be saved now that he can resume his pro-life advocacy free from government interference,” commented AFLC co-founder Robert Muise in response to the court order.
“AFLC is committed to protecting the right to life and the right to freedom of speech of pro-life advocates such as Mr. Dobrowolski, who provide a necessary voice for the unborn,” added legal partner David Yerushalmi. “In this day and age, when the atrocities of the abortion industry – and it is an industry – are front and center in the Gosnell murder trial conviction, the battle in the courts is all the more critical.”
The City will not enforce its sign ordinance against Dobrowolski until the court decides whether or not the law is constitutional.