NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ A law that was enacted to protect women from being harassed or threatened while exercising their right to an abortion also protects abortion foes, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Maryanne Trump Barry awarded $10,000 to an anti-abortion counselor who sued under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act after she got threatening messages from an abortion rights supporter.
The case was the first in which the law _ designed to protect women from anti-abortion demonstrators outside clinics _ was used to penalize threats made against an anti-abortion volunteer, Barry said.
The lawsuit was filed by Janet Greenhut, a volunteer who counseled women against abortion and drove pregnant women to prenatal appointments.
In 1995, Ms. Greenhut received four phone messages at her home in Suffern, N.Y. One said: ``Get your murderers away from abortion clinics or you will be killed.″
The same person also called a Roman Catholic Church and demanded that the assistant pastor ``call off your pro-lifers from the abortion clinics, or we will bomb your church.″
Alice Hand later pleaded guilty to making terroristic threats and was sentenced to probation.
Ms. Greenhut sued under the 1994 federal law that bans threats and violence at abortion clinics. Dozens of anti-abortion protesters have been prosecuted under the law.
Ms. Hand’s lawyers contended she should not pay damages because Ms. Greenhut was not providing medical reproductive health services.
But the judge said the law covers all those who provide counseling and referral services relating to pregnancy. ``What is crucial is that (Greenhut) was targeted because she provided reproductive health services,″ Ms. Barry said.
Ms. Greenhut’s lawyer, Russell Passamano, said in Friday’s The Record of Hackensack: ``Today was sweet justice. Pro-lifers are threatened all the time. They need protection from this violence.″