Anti-Abortion Activists to Take Privacy Fight to State Supreme Court
Jul. 11, 1995
DETROIT (AP) _ The mother of a girl whose name was pulled from the garbage of an abortion clinic and scrawled on posters carried by abortion protesters said they had no right.
The state Court of Appeals has agreed, at least in part, ruling that the girl and another teen-ager can sue the marchers for invasion of privacy.
The appeals court found that Lynn Mills and Sister Lois Mitoraj did what many may find ``outrageous,'' when they put the names on large posters that said, ``Don't kill your baby'' and displayed the signs during a protest outside an abortion clinic in 1991.
The appeals court said the women at the clinic were not the ones who had put the documents in the garbage, and that the plaintiffs had not consented to having that information made public.
``Indeed, abortion concerns matters of sexual relations and medical treatment, both of which are regarded as private matters,'' the three-member panel found.
``Defendants' conduct involved more than mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances or petty oppressions,'' the ruling said.
A lower court threw out the case in 1993, saying privacy rights were not violated because the names were found in the garbage of the clinic in Livonia, in suburban Detroit.
The appeals court found Friday that a jury should decide whether the defendants could be held responsible for causing emotional distress to the women, identified in the $350,000 lawsuit as Sally Roe and Jane Doe. They were 14 and 18 at the time their names were publicized.
Sally Roe's mother, identified in the lawsuit as Mrs. Nancy Roe, said her daughter chose abortion because she was 14 and had no job. ``They have no right to put names on their picket. That's a personal matter,'' she said.
Constance Cumbey, the attorney representing Mills and Mitoraj, said Monday she would appeal.
Cumbey said she expects the state Supreme Court to find that once something is placed in the trash, it is no longer private.
``Generally, the notion is you got to take care of your garbage,'' said Arthur Miller, professor of law at Harvard Law School and a privacy expert. ``That's why shredding manufacturers make a lot of money.''
Mills, who is a spokeswoman for the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, said she looked forward to taking the case to the state Supreme Court.
Mitoraj, a member of the Felician Sisters of O.S.S.F., did not return telephone messages to The Associated Press.