WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of a ruling that overturned a lower court decision granting a preliminary injunction to a Maine minister who asserted that he was being unlawfully targeted by police outside of a Planned Parenthood facility for his pro-life preaching.
The high court declined certiorari in the case of March v. Mills, et. al. without comment on Monday, allowing a First Circuit ruling against the preacher’s public proclamations to stand.
However, as the courts ruled solely on the merits of the law and not how it was being applied specifically to Andrew March of Cell 53 Church, his attorneys will refile and continue the fight.
“The case is far from over,” Kate Oliveri of the Thomas More Law Center told the Bangor Daily News. “There are several challenges that we will go back to the District Court with.”
As previously reported, March had filed suit in November 2015 after Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, a pro-abortion Democrat, filed a civil rights lawsuit to keep Brian Ingalls from standing within 50 feet of the Monument Square Planned Parenthood facility—or any Planned Parenthood location in Maine. Ingalls is an elder at March’s church.
Mills alleged in her lawsuit that Ingalls spoke too loudly on Oct. 23, 2015 about “murdering babies, aborted babies’ blood and Jesus” while preaching outside of Planned Parenthood to the point that his pro-life pleas could be heard in the room where examinations take place.
Police had confronted March and others last year to advise that their voices could be heard by staff and clients inside of the Planned Parenthood facility, and told them to keep it down. But officers reportedly did nothing when those in favor of Planned Parenthood could likewise be heard inside of the building.
In seeking an injunction, March’s attorneys challenged the noise provision of the Maine Civil Rights Act, which states that after receiving a warning, it is illegal for a person to intentionally interfere with a medical procedure at an abortion facility.
In May 2016, U.S. District Judge Nancy Torresen, appointed to the bench by Barack Obama, sided with March, opining that the “intent to interfere” portion of the law would pertain to the content of the speech, and would therefore only relate to pro-life speech, which would consequently be an unconstitutional content-based restriction.
“Continued enforcement of a content-based restriction on speech would result in irreparable harm to the Plaintiff,” Torreson ruled.
She said that there are other ways to keep order on the public sidewalk, as police “can further their interests of maintaining order and protecting individual patients through the criminal code, most obviously the disorderly conduct and harassment statutes.”
However, in August, the First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Torreson’s ruling, stating that they rather found the law to be content-neutral and that it does not ban abortion opponents from conversing with others, as opposed to lifting up one’s voice to preach—if in doing so the person’s voice can be heard inside the building.
“[T]he requirements laid out on the face of the noise provision do not indicate that the measure would apply to speech expressed at a normal, conversational tone—or even at a louder volume—absent the speaker’s intent to disrupt the provision or receipt of medical services,” it wrote.
March appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and had several pro-life organizations back him in an amicus brief.
“Petitioner intends to reach women on a busy street approaching the facility to receive an abortion—not the women who are already inside,” it read. “Officials were unable to provide him with an objective [sound] standard so he could adjust his volume on the busy thoroughfare around the clinic.”
“The statute seriously infringes Petitioner’s free speech rights by rendering it virtually impossible for him to communicate his message to his target audience,” the brief outlined. “While there may be other ways for Petitioner to protest abortion in general, the noise provision impedes his ability to reach abortion-minded women at the most critical time.”
However, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the appeal this week, and Planned Parenthood of Northern New England cheered the decision.
“Once our patients walk through the doors of our health center they are entitled to care without harassment and intimidation shouted from the street below,” said Nicole Clegg, vice president of public policy.
As previously reported, from its early years, Christians have decried abortion in America as being the savage murder of innocent children. Even in 1872, preacher Thomas De Witt Talmage wrote in his book “The Abominations of Modern Society”:
“Herod’s massacre of the innocents was as nothing compared to that of millions and millions by what I shall call ante-natal murders. You may escape the grip of the law, because the existence of such life was not known by society, but I tell you that at last God will shove down on you the avalanche of His indignation, and though you may not have wielded knife or pistol in your deeds of darkness, yet, in the day when John Wilkes Booth and Antony Probst come to judgment, you will have on your brow the brand of murderer.”
Ecclesiastes 11:5 also reads, “As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child, even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.”