Anti-choice activists call it free speech. But when picketing and protesting leaves the clinic and follows doctors, employees, and clinic owners home, are these actions still covered under the right to protest, or does the right to privacy outweigh other considerations?
Rockford, Illinois is about to decide once and for all.
Anti-choice harassers are preparing to sue over a letter they have received from the county telling them that they are not allowed to demonstrate outside of homes in private neighborhoods. State law in Illinois reads:
[M]en in a free society have the right to quiet enjoyment of their homes; that the stability of community and family life cannot be maintained unless the right to privacy and a sense of security and peace in the home are respected and encouraged; that residential picketing, however just the cause inspiring it, disrupts home, family and communal life; that residential picketing is inappropriate in our society, where the jealously guarded rights of free speech and assembly have always been associated with respect for the rights of others.
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But the protesters believe that the Supreme Court allows them to picket neighborhoods anyway, “as long as it doesn’t target a specific household.” So, picketing throughout the neighborhood is fine. “My clients are being targeted by the county with regard to this issue,” Lawyer Jason Craddock told Rockford Register. “The point of a residential picket is to prick the conscience of whoever you are picketing and bring awareness to their neighbors. … This is not a trivial matter. The law allows for this the same as it allows robust debate in the public square.”
But if you are bringing awareness to neighbors about another particular neighbor, how exactly is that not targeting a specific household? Craddock, a lawyer from the Thomas Moore society known for his legal defense of Randall Terry and for defending anti-choice activists who took a picture of a woman who had an abortion complication and put it on the internet without her permission, will be spinning that argument on April 18th.