An Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals has ruled in favor of a pro-life advocate who was ticketed while handing out fliers in front of a Tuscaloosa abortion facility. The court’s unanimous ruling on July 12 puts an end to pro-lifer Ellen Hermann’s two-year-long legal battle.
Hermann was cited in May 2017 for handing out anti-abortion literature outside the state’s largest abortion facility. Police initially responded to the facility after complaints that Hermann was stopping traffic. The responding officer did not find evidence that she was impeding traffic, but he did write her a citation for failing to secure a permit before handing out the fliers.
According to AL.com, Hermann was convicted of that charge in August 2017 in Tuscaloosa Municipal Court. She then appealed to the circuit court, but the conviction was upheld. Finally, she appealed to the criminal appeals court which ruled in her favor. The court found that Hermann did not need a permit because, according to city code, her purpose in handing out the fliers constituted a “minor demonstration.”
“Thus, the city’s prosecution of Hermann’s distribution of pamphlets on the basis that she failed to obtain a permit is unjustifiable; the city cannot prosecute Hermann for violating the permit requirement … when the very ordinance that provides the permitting process expressly states that Hermann’s conduct did not require a permit,” Judge Chris McCool wrote in his ruling.
“These peaceful pro-life advocates must be allowed their right to freely speak and assemble,” said Martin Cannon of the Thomas More Society, who represented Hermann in the case. “The City of Tuscaloosa has realized that they cannot make them jump through hoops in order to participate in Constitutionally protected activities. There are over 100 children aborted weekly at West Alabama Women’s Center – more than are born alive in Tuscaloosa County! If the members of Prolife Tuscaloosa want to educate consumers about that and pray for it to stop – they have the right to do so, and the Thomas More Society is here to defend those rights.”
The overturning of Hermann’s conviction isn’t the first victory for pro-lifers in the city. In a news brief, the Thomas More Society wrote that they also achieved access for pro-lifers to a public right of way in front of the abortion facility. Additionally, they convinced the city to restrict parking to the right of way, so that abortion facility workers could not park there.
“The Tuscaloosa pro-life community appreciates the responsiveness of the Tuscaloosa city officials,” said Cannon. “The city was going to exclude peaceful pro-life advocates from the part of the clinic parking lot that lies on the right of way, but we were able to defeat that. Next, we were able to get the city to install a steel fence across the lot at the property line, excluding all vehicles from the space. This has made it easier for pro-life citizens to engage abortion-bound women in dialogue about life-affirming alternatives.”
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