On a hot 2012 summer day in Columbia, Missouri, 40 Days For Life campaign director Kathy Forck handed a bottle of water to a Stericycle truck driver outside a Planned Parenthood clinic.
Mrs. Forck’s seemingly innocuous deed became the target of trespassing charges from Planned Parenthood. Accused of crossing the Planned Parenthood property line, Mrs. Forck was found guilty in Columbia Municipal Court.
Enter Daniel J. Baker, Thomas More Society special counsel at the Law Office of Cox & Associates, LLC in Sedalia, Missouri. Previously, Baker was a college graduate with a degree in mathematics when his church sent people to pray outside a Granite City, Illinois abortion clinic.
“I couldn’t find any meaning or purpose in pursuing a graduate degree in math, but being a presence outside of the abortion clinic mattered,” Baker told Live Action News. “I never thought about being a lawyer until a woman at church half-jokingly asked me why not become one.
“I asked God that if it was His will for me to become a lawyer, that He would pave the way – which He did. Looking for a job after passing the bar, God sent me to Stan Cox who is possibly the best person to work for and take on pro-life cases.”
Baker appealed the municipal court ruling in Mrs. Forck’s case to the Boone County Circuit Court. The prosecutor amended the case from first degree trespass to second degree trespass to avoid a trial by jury, but ultimately Judge Gary Oxenhandler dropped criminal charges against Mrs. Forck on account of Planned Parenthood having no material evidence, plus being discredited by security camera footage.
Scripture instructs believers to be above reproach so that opponents will be put to shame and have their ignorance silenced (Titus 2:7-8, I Peter 2:12-15). Baker says Mrs. Forck “is good about making sure that the members of 40 Days for Life are above reproach such that Planned Parenthood does not have any sort of justification for calling the police in the first place.”
How should advocates for life approach spurious charges when they come regardless? Baker encourages pro-lifers to think big and delineate the battlefield.
“There is no such thing as a small pro-life case,” Baker advises. “I do believe that one of Planned Parenthood’s tactics is to call the police and press frivolous charges. This works to a degree because the pro-lifers charged have to either defend themselves, which may involve hiring an attorney, or else be fined some amount.
“If this were not a pro-life case, I would have told Kathy to accept the prosecutor’s offer, which was significantly less than she would pay me to provide the most nominal defense. In this situation, however, that would embolden Planned Parenthood to keep bring[ing] spurious charges.
“By treating this as a big case, we made it a big case. The prosecutor had to match the work we did or else cede the issue. I have no doubt that the prosecutor spent way more time on this case than he ever wanted to or was prepared to. Moreover, when we subpoenaed Planned Parenthood’s records and took depositions of their witnesses, Planned Parenthood had their lawyer travel from Kansas City to Columbia on multiple occasions, each time (I can only assume) charging a hefty fee. My hope is that the next time Planned Parenthood feels inclined to press frivolous charges, they will decide that it is not worth it.”
“…By treating this as if it were a big case, everyone else had to do the same and it became a bigger case. Had we lost at trial, our plan was to appeal the case (assuming we had a basis for appeal) and make the prosecutor respond to the appeal. Even if we lost at all stages, we made the prosecutor treat this case as a big case. The next time he is asked to file charges on such a weak case, he will have to think about all of the work he put into the last case.
The best advice I can give to a pro-life activist or lawyer who is faced with spurious charges is to aggressively defend against the charges until they are dismissed. Fight on until the bitter end so that the other side does the same.”