Veteran sidewalk counselors know that local law enforcement is not always helpful to pro-lifers who pray and counsel outside of abortion clinics. However, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, city officials appear to be allowing the local abortion clinic, the West Alabama Women’s Center, to blatantly violate the law. This past fall pro-life activist Paul Lake was praying outside the clinic as part of the local 40 Days for Life campaign. His pro-life banner was stolen by a clinic RN and male assistant who proceeded to enter a car parked at the clinic and depart with the stolen property.
When Lake went to court to sign the complaint, he was told that that the city attorneys had denied the warrant request. Unbelievably, Mr. Lake was told that because the banner was on the city’s right of way, it was not illegal for someone to take it. Allison Aranda, Senior Staff Counsel for Life Legal Defense Foundation — who is legally representing Mr. Lake — said the excuse given to Lake was inapplicable. “To imply that somehow a crime did not occur because the banner was on city property is absurd. The banner, regardless of where it was placed, still belonged to Mr. Lake…the Alabama criminal code concurs.”
Aranda, a former prosecutor, points out, “This case is one of the easiest to prove that I’ve seen. There is an eyewitness who saw the crime occur. The police then confront the perpetrators who admit to taking the sign and tell police that the banner was destroyed. In the criminal justice arena that’s about as close to an open and shut case as you find.” “Furthermore, Mr. Lake had the proper permits.” added Aranda. “The Tuscaloosa City Attorney office’s actions give credence to the idea that they are defying the law to protect abortion clinic director Gloria Gray. It has been reported that a personal friend of Gray’s, City Attorney Christopher England, is the person who told the warrant clerk not to issue the warrant,” Aranda explained. The Life Legal Defense Fund is planning further legal action against the City of Tuscaloosa.
In recent years the has stepped up their harassment of pro-lifers who come to pray and counsel outside the clinic. They encourage groups of University of Alabama undergraduates to harass the sidewalk counselors as they attempt to engage abortion minded women. During the fall 40 Days for Life campaign, the West Alabama Women’s Center tried to raise funds – purportedly for an abortion fund for low income women — whenever people come to the clinic to pray. Regardless, Paul Lake, the Knights of Columbus, and the hearty undergraduates from ‘Bama Students for Life continue to be a prayerful presence outside the West Alabama Women’s Center every Saturday morning.
Interested readers who wish to contact the City Attorney’s office in Tuscaloosa can reach them at (205) 248-5140