More Than Silence

Back in January, Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp dismissed the case against pro-life activist Susan Pine, charged with violating the FACE Act by handing out pro-life literature in Florida—a ministry she has been pursuing for twenty years.

You can read a news account of the federal trial here, and the judge’s dismissal here.

Maybe you have to have worked your way through a bunch of these court documents to realize how bothered Judge Ryskamp was. Some passages:

Although one might suspect that the Government was in fact aware of such facts, and that it purposely neglected to prevent destruction of the sign-in sheets and surveillance tapes because they were detrimental to its FACE claim, mere speculation is insufficient to support a finding of bad faith. The Government’s failure to take the necessary steps to prevent the destruction of potentially critical evidence was indeed negligent, and perhaps even grossly negligent. Absent a showing of bad faith, however, an adverse inference is not warranted. . . .

the Government has offered no evidence regarding the actual contents of Ms. Pine’s conversation with the passengers. In fact, Ms. Pine’s deposition transcript reveals that the Government did not even bother to ask what was said. . . .

In sum, the record almost entirely devoid of evidence that Ms. Pine acted with the prohibited motive and intent or that Ms. Pine engaged in any unlawful conduct. The Government has failed to create a genuine issue for trial on all three elements of its FACE claim, and Ms. Pine is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. . . .

It is rather curious that the Department of Justice was able to meet with the PWC staff and police officers the very next day after the alleged violation occurred. It is also curious that the Government failed to make any efforts to obtain the identities of the passengers who are the alleged victims in this case—the Court finds it hard to believe that the Government was completely unaware of the existence of the sign-in sheets and video surveillance system. The Court can only wonder whether this action was the product of a concerted effort between the Government and the PWC, which began well before the date of the incident at issue, to quell Ms. Pine’s activities rather than to vindicate the rights of those allegedly aggrieved by Ms. Pine’s conduct. If this is the case, the Court would be inclined to sanction the Government with, at a minimum, an adverse inference. Given the absence of further evidence substantiating the Court’s suspicions, the Court is not authorized to do so. . . .

Perhaps the key line: “The Court is at a loss as to why the Government chose to prosecute this particular case in the first place.”

The story got a little bump on pro-life websites in January, but otherwise faded away, as such things do. Which is a shame, not just because Susan Pine is a heroine who deserves our prayers and recognition, but also because the case, brought in the early days of Obama’s presidency, was a window into the worldview of his administration—a worldview that would surprise many people when it issued this year in the HHS demands for insurance to cover contraception and abortifacients.

Those HHS demands were signaled from the opening moments of the Obama administration. Judge Ryskamp may have been at a loss to understand why the government chose to bring this case. But we have no such excuse: The determination was made to prosecute Susan Pine, and—I strongly suspect (as does, reading between the lines, Judge Ryskamp)—a conspiracy to make that happen was put in place by the abortuary, the local police, and the federal prosecutors.

But here’s the thing that comes clear when you read about Pine’s prosecution—as a worldview that flowers in the HHS demands: It’s not enough, for the pro-abortion forces, that abortion be legal. They must silence opposition, and more than silence: They must have approval for abortion. They must draw us all in.

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