2nd Circuit will NOT enjoin New York anti-abortion protesters

Anti-abortion demonstrators were accused by the state of breaking rules meant to safeguard patients’ access to abortion clinics without interference or harassment, but a federal appeals court refused to issue an injunction against them on Thursday.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ unanimous panel did not address the case’s merits, which Senior Circuit Judge Guido Calabresi described as “difficult, unresolved, state law issues,” instead of finding only that U.S. District Judge Carol Bagley Amon had not abused her discretion in denying the injunction.

Chief Judge Debra Ann Livingston and Circuit Judge Rosemary Pooler joined Calabresi on the bench.

Martin Cannon of the Thomas More Society, a lawyer for the demonstrators, stated, “It’s a really nice verdict.” “When making factual findings, the trial judge has significant latitude.”

A request for comment from the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, which had sued the demonstrators on behalf of patients at the Choices clinic in the Queens borough of New York City, was not immediately returned.

In 2017, the state filed a lawsuit against the 13 demonstrators, stating that they surrounded women trying to enter the clinic, threatened people trying to guide them, and blocked their way with posters purporting to be of aborted fetuses. The federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, the state’s New York State Clinic Access Act, and the city’s Access to Reproductive Health Care Facilities Act, it stated, were all breached.

In July 2018, Amon denied the state’s request for an injunction against the protests, stating that the state had not demonstrated that it would suffer irreparable harm if one were not granted.

However, in March of this year, the same 2nd Circuit court that ruled on Thursday reversed Amon’s injunction denial and ruled in favor of the state on a number of legal points in the case, 2-1. Livingston dissents, claiming that the ruling violated protesters’ right to free speech under the First Amendment.

The panel approved the protesters’ request for a rehearing.

Calabresi did not elaborate on the reasons for the shift in his judgment on Thursday.

While “some members of this Court may have considered the subject differently in the first instance,” he wrote that Amon had not misused her “considerable discretion” in denying the injunction.

“We do not believe it is appropriate to certify to the New York Court of Appeals or to attempt to resolve these problems ourselves at this preliminary injunction stage,” he said.

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