Minneapolis sued over ban on sidewalk counseling outside abortion clinics

"The city of Minneapolis can't do that. It violates the Constitution," said attorney Erick Kaardal.

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A sidewalk counselor greets a car outside the Uptown Planned Parenthood. (City of Minneapolis/YouTube)

A pro-life group sued the city of Minneapolis last week over an ordinance that prohibits its volunteers from conducting sidewalk counseling outside abortion clinics.

The November 2022 ordinance prohibits people from standing on or obstructing the driveway of an abortion clinic, which is defined as “that portion of a right-of-way, including a sidewalk or bikeway, that provides vehicular access from a street to a reproductive healthcare facility.” The ordinance also prohibits “disrupting access to reproductive healthcare facilities.”

The Minnesota-based Pro-Life Action Ministries (PLAM) previously said that its sidewalk counselors stand on “parts of the public sidewalk outside the Uptown Planned Parenthood to offer life-saving literature to abortion clients driving in.”

Minneapolis was provided with security footage from Planned Parenthood showing sidewalk counselors stopping to talk with vehicles entering the facility. The ordinance was authored by Ward 7 Council Member Lisa Goodman, who formerly served as the executive director for Minnesota National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws (NARAL).

“The Minneapolis ordinance, Chapter 405, enacted in November 2022, was a deliberate attempt to stifle Pro-Life Action Ministries’ sidewalk outreach outside of Planned Parenthood,” said Thomas More Society special counsel Erick Kaardal, who filed the federal lawsuit on PLAM’s behalf.

“Minneapolis City Council Member Lisa Goodman was the chief author of Chapter 405. Goodman made it publicly known that the enactment of Chapter 405 was a ‘creative decision’ while she awaits a codifying of abortion rights in Minnesota and nationwide, stating, ‘Never in my 25 years of being here have I ever gotten to do something as meaningful in the reproductive rights movement,’” Kaardal explained.

Thomas More Society said the Minneapolis ordinance “makes a calm, polite invitation to converse, made from the public right of way, impossible to achieve.”

Kaardal believes the ordinance creates “an unconstitutional, content-based exclusion zone, created exclusively for the purpose of shutting down pro-life speech outside of abortion facilities.”

“The city of Minneapolis can’t do that,” he said. “It violates the Constitution.”

The lawsuit also argues that the ordinance has made it more difficult for PLAM to hold constitutionally-protected protests outside the clinic.

“Chapter 405 has created exclusion zones to prohibit sidewalk counseling, picketing, marches, demonstrations, protests, petitioning, or other speech activities at the Minneapolis Planned Parenthood facility, prohibiting the right to associate,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief.

“It’s a simple situation,” Kaardal said. “The ministry of pro-life sidewalk counseling is a peaceful interaction with pregnant women to convey life-affirming alternatives to abortion. Yet the city of Minneapolis has specifically enacted an ordinance designed to prevent any success at conducting this peaceful interaction by Pro-Life Action Ministries, its staff members or volunteers, and any others involved in similar activities. And the young pregnant woman constitutionally loses by not getting the information she may want.”

 

Anthony Gockowski

Anthony Gockowski is Editor-in-Chief of Alpha News. He previously worked as an editor for The Minnesota Sun and Campus Reform, and reported for The Daily Caller.