Federal judge exonerates pro-life activists

Federal judge exonerates pro-life activists

In 2017, former New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman filed a lawsuit against pro-life activists who demonstrated outside Choices Women’s Medical Center, an abortion clinic, in New York’s Queens district.

According to Schneiderman’s lawsuit, the protesters violated women’s access to “reproductive health care” by obstructing the entrance to the abortion clinic and harassing those who attempted to enter. The suit therefore requested a federal judge to halt the pro-life demonstrations via a preliminary injunction, and to shield the clinic with a 16-foot buffer zone.

In a victory for the pro-life movement, however, Judge Carol Bagley Amon ruled on July 20th that Schneiderman “failed to show” that the pro-life activists “had the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm” anyone who entered the abortion clinic.

“The interactions on the sidewalk outside Choices [Women’s Medical Center] were generally quite short, and there is no credible evidence that any protester disregarded repeated requests to be left alone over an extended period or changed his or her tone or message in response to requests to be left alone in a way that suggested an intent to harass, annoy, or alarm,” Judge Amon stated in a written opinion.

The decision drew predictable criticism from the National Organization for Women (NOW), a pro-abortion group. “What’s happening now is crossing a line,” claimed Jean Bucaria, deputy director for NOW’s New York City chapter. “You shouldn’t have to be screamed at, yelled at or harassed to get to a doctor.”

Despite Judge Amon’s ruling to the contrary, Queens councilman Rory Lancman echoed Bucaria, arguing that the pro-life activists’ demonstrations constituted an attempt to shame and intimidate women seeking abortion: “What’s the value of having abortion rights if you can’t get to the clinic without being harassed or humiliated?”

Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for New York’s current attorney general, similarly advanced the narrative that the pro-life demonstrations amounted to “harassment.”

Nevertheless, Judge Amon found that witness testimony against the protesters overstated the “impropriety of the [protesters’] conduct” and did not consider “mitigating circumstances.” Amon opted to rely most heavily on security camera footage from the abortion clinic, rather than evidence from covert body cameras and microphones carried by pro-abortion operatives who attempted to enter the clinic.

Stephen Crampton of the Thomas More Society, a Chicago law firm which regularly represents pro-life groups, recognizes that Schneiderman’s lawsuit stemmed from partisan motives rather than a concern for fairness. “In our view the attorney general should have never brought this case,” Crampton stated. “This was more about politics than justice.”

Indeed, justice demands that the unborn receive their right to equal protection under the Constitution. To that end, New York’s pro-life protesters acted nobly. Judge Amon’s ruling confirms that they did so within the bounds of the law.

Abortion’s disproportionate impact on black America

Abortion’s disproportionate impact on black America

Columnist Jason L. Riley describes abortion’s “outsize toll” on the African American population in an opinion piece published by the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.

Riley hopes to reshape the conversation on abortion sparked by President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee: “As Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination tees up another national debate about reproductive rights, is it too much to ask that abortion’s impact on the black population be part of the discussion?” Riley asks.

Riley first documents blacks’ evolving views on abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Prior to Roe, African Americans viewed abortion less favorably than their white counterparts, according to Riley. Fannie Lou Hamer and Whitney Young, both prominent civil rights activists, regarded the practice as genocidal. Jesse Jackson, meanwhile, deemed abortion “murder” and stated that blacks “used to look for death from the man in the blue coat and now it comes in a white coat.”

Now, however, African Americans espouse radically different views on abortion: modern black civil rights leaders routinely partner with abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood, Riley notes. A telling Pew Research report conducted in 2016 reveals that 62% of black Americans believe abortion should be legal “in all or most cases,” compared with 58% of whites and 50% of Hispanics.

Pro-abortion attitudes have taken a devastating toll on America’s black population. Riley points to New York City, where every year the number of aborted black babies outweigh the number of black children who survive pregnancy. As a result, ugly inequalities mark comparisons between black and white abortion rates: black mothers in New York terminate pregnancy at three times the rate of white mothers, while births heavily outnumber abortions among whites and other non-black ethnic groups.

Similar disparities exist in other regions of the United States: Riley cites a 2014 study which found that nation-wide, black women received 36% of all abortions, even though they account for just 13% of America’s female population. Higher abortion rates among black women persist even after controlling for income.

Riley concludes with a sobering assessment of abortion’s impact on black Americans:

“When you combine the amount of black violent behavior directed at other blacks with the number of pregnancies terminated by black women, the rate at which blacks willingly end the lives of one another is chilling. . . . Racial disparities in abortion rates are no less disturbing than racial disparities in income, crime, poverty and school suspensions. Why are people who want to lecture the rest of us about the value of black lives pretending otherwise?”

Email Jason L. Riley at Jason.Riley@wsj.com or reach him via Twitter at @jasonrileywsj

Mom adopts best friend’s daughters after their mom dies of cancer

Mom adopts best friend’s daughters after their mom dies of cancer

When Elizabeth Diamond was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer in August of 2014, she had an important question for her best friend, Laura Ruffino.

“She said if anything ever happens to me, I want you to take my girls and I instantly said ok,” said Ruffino.

The two had become best friends while in fifth grade. “No matter where we were, we always had fun.”

“As she started to weaken, you can imagine the fears I had for the girls and being without her.”

A single mom of four girls, Diamond lost her battle with cancer several months later in April of 2015. Ruffino, her husband Rico, and their two daughters immediately welcomed the four girls into their family.

The family’s New York community has started an online fundraiser for the Ruffino family, and the popularity Diamond’s story has received has helped the center raise over $96,000.

The Ruffino family is still adjusting to its new members; however, they are approaching the challenges with a positive attitude. Rico Ruffino stated, “Ten years ago I didn’t think this would be my life. But if something gets thrown at you, just accept the challenge and do the best you can.”

#JeSuisCharlie: millions of social media users stand with the French against terrorism

#JeSuisCharlie: millions of social media users stand with the French against terrorism

Three gunmen shouting Al Qaeda slogans murdered 12 journalists Wednesday at the office of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French newspaper. They asked for the journalists, including the editor and four of France’s top cartoonists, by name, then shot them.

Why this sudden display of violence? The terrorists were offended by the publications’s art.

Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier, among those killed in the terrorist attack, was not afraid to stand up for freedom. After Charlie Hebdo was bombed in 2011, Charbonnier said, “I would rather die standing than live on my knees.”

Charlie Hebdo had been threatened previously and was destroyed with petrol bombs in 2011. Following that attack, Charbonnier pointed out that Islam is not exempt from freedom of the press.

“If we can poke fun at everything in France, if we can talk about anything in France apart from Islam or the consequences of Islamism, that is annoying,” Charbonnier said.

He called the bombing the work of “idiot extremists” and vowed to continue his work regardless. “This is the first time we have been physically attacked, but we won’t let it get to us,” he said of the 2011 bombing. “When activists need a pretext to justify their violence, they always find it.”

Fast forward three years and, though Charbonnier was killed, freedom lives on. Over 5.7 million Twitter messages using the hashtags #JeSuisCharlie and #CharlieHebdo have been posted in support of the French people and Charlie Hebdo since the attack.

Hundreds of thousands have gathered in peaceful protests around the world and millions have shown support through social media. During gatherings, supporters held signs reading “Je Suis Charlie” and “Not Afraid.” Those without signs held up their phones with “Je Suis Charlie” displayed or raise pens, symbolizing the freedoms of speech and press. Some held copies of Charlie Hebdo to the sky in defiance.

French police said approximately 50,000 turned out in France alone; more than 10,000 went to the Place de la Republique in central Paris. “This can help rebirth a spirit of unity,” said Olivier Migda, 38, one of the marchers. “Rather than seeking refuge in nationalism, let’s hope that this will create cohesion.” Protesters at the Place de la Republique spelled out “Not Afraid” with flashlights.

Thousands of others have shown support all over the world. Caroline Meziere, 36, was among hundreds gathered in New York City’s Union Square. “Charlie was a symbol of French expression,” said Meziere, who grew up in France. “It’s shocking that they killed an entire newspaper over [its] sense of humor.”

New York City mayor held a moment of silence during a ceremony to swear in 891 Police  Academy recruits. “This was an attack on those who speak freely; it was an attack on the news media; it was an attack on freedom of expression,” he said. “It was an attack on the values we hold dear and that you’re preparing to defend.”

Several hundred gathered in Trafalgar Square. One held a sign reading, “If God exists he does not kill for a drawing.” Others put symbols of the “Je Suis Charlie” movement on the ground in an act of defiance.

“I’m just sad, I’m just shocked, I just don’t understand,” said Marie Humbert, 25. “I never expected to feel as French as I am now.”

Another protester, Dean Stoker, 38, said, “I am just here out of solidarity. I was really sickened by what I saw today. It is an incredibly important thing, freedom of the press and tolerance of others.”

French President Francois Hollande said, “No barbaric act will never extinguish the freedom of the press. We are a united country.”

Hollande met with French religious leaders at Elysee Palace. “We feel today the need to do all that is possible within our communities or religious families to mobilize the believers to feel a sense of living together as well as prevention because God is our witness that we are seeing a degradation of the situation in our society,” said Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris Mosque and head of the French Council of Muslim Faith.

“We are all French,” Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said after meeting with the French Ambassador in Rome.

Madrid, Spain suburb Rivas Vaciamadrid said it plans to name a street, plaza or public space “Charlie Hebdo” in memory of those killed and in honor of the freedom of expression. Mayor Pedro del Cura said regarding the tragedy, “a society without satire and criticism is a society in a vegetative state.”

“The only thing we can do against this is to live fearlessly,” Bild editor-in-chief Kai Diekmann said. “Our colleagues in Paris have paid the ultimate price for freedom. We bow before them.” The major German daily put “Cowardly Murderers!” on its front page and “Je Suis Charlie” on the back.

“These people were executed at point-blank range just because of drawings — drawings that didn’t please everyone and provoked anger and controversy but still were just drawings,” said Tunisian Marouen Achouri.

The U.S. Embassy in Paris is using the Je Suis Charlie picture as its Twitter avatar and has declared, “there are no plans to close the U.S. Embassy in Paris or other diplomatic facilities in France.”

Charlie Hebdo plans to publish a million copies next Wednesday, a major increase from the typical 60,000. Patrick Pelloux, a column author for the newspaper, said of the victims, “They were extraordinary men and women. They were killed during a meeting discussing a conference on the fight against racism. Voila. The magazine will continue.”

Other French media have promised help. “Confronted with horror, Radio France, Le Monde and France Televisions will provide Charlie Hebdo and its staff the human and material means it needs to continue,” they said in a joint statement.

It seems the terrorists failed in their objective. They may have won the battle, but they have lost the war. Millions of freedom-loving people around the world who had never heard of the French satire newspaper until yesterday are now standing with France and declaring, “We are not afraid. Je Suis Charlie.”

Police tensions coast to coast: NYPD officers turn back on mayor, Portland embarks on policy reform

Police tensions coast to coast: NYPD officers turn back on mayor, Portland embarks on policy reform

During New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s eulogy for slain Officer Wenjian Liu yesterday, hundreds of police turned their backs on the mayor. The show of scorn highlighted growing tensions between de Blasio and the New York City police.

Officer Liu was shot dead with his partner, Officer Rafael Ramos, on December 20. Married only two months previously, Liu’s police career embodied the American dream: after immigrating from China as a child, Liu wanted to become a police officer to help his community after the September 11 attacks.

More than 10,000 mourners arrived at the ceremony held outside the funeral home. Liu’s funeral arrangements were delayed to allow his family to travel from China to attend.

Police even went so far as to blame de Blasio for the death of Liu and Ramos. Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, among those who turned their backs on the mayor at a hospital the day of the killings, told the Associated Press de Blasio had “blood on his hands.”

De Blasio supported protests following the police killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Police union leaders accused the mayor of thus encouraging a hostile environment that allowed the officers’ deaths.

New Yok Police

“Let us move forward by strengthening the bonds that unite us, and let us work together to attain peace,” de Blasio said at the funeral.

Though attending police seemed hardened to de Blasio’s words, Police Commissioner William Bratton urged officers to show respect. “A hero’s funeral is about grieving, not grievance,” Bratton said in a memo.

Retired police, like New York Police Department detective Camille Sanfilippo, also turned their backs on de Blasio.

“The mayor has no respect for us,” Sanfilippo told the Associated Press. “Why should we have respect for him?”

“Across this country, we seem to be under attack in the law enforcement profession,” national secretary of the Fraternal Order of Police Patrick Yoes told the Associated Press. “We are public servants. We are not public enemies.”

While tensions rise in New York, the city of Portland is actively working to improve police policies, training, and community relations.

On Wednesday, Portland City Council will discuss a new ordinance proposing furthered police reform. The ordinance would add $75,000 a year to the city’s already approved $240,000 annual contract with Rosenbaum & Watson – the Chicago-based team of academics working with former Oregon Chief Justice Paul J. DeMuniz as the city’s new compliance officer and community liaison.

Following a 2012 U.S. Justice Department investigation, the city of Portland began instigating changes in its police policies, training, and management.

The 2012 investigation found that Portland police “engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force against people with mental illness” and that “stun gun use by officers was unjustified and excessive at times.”

“Getting out and engaging people is a critical component of helping police build trust in our community,” Portland Police Chief Michael Reese said in a video released during the aftermath of Ferguson.

“The importance of building greater trust between police officers and the people we serve is paramount,” Reese said.

The Portland City Council’s review of the ordinance is scheduled for 2 p.m. on January 7 in City Hall’s council chambers.