Court says stalking statute can’t be used to stop abortion protests
SALEM, Ore. (AP)—The Oregon Court of Appeals has struck down the use of an anti-stalking statute to prevent an abortion opponent from picketing the home of a medical clinic director.
The decision on Feb. 18 did not rule out future attempts to use the anti-stalking law to block such protests. But the court said it could be used only if protesters were sufficiently threatening.
“It is unpleasant to be picketed at one’s home—or even at one’s office. But that is the essence of picketing,” the court wrote. “It is, no doubt, upsetting to be denounced as a `murderer’ merely for assisting others to exercise their constitutional rights. But the (protester), too, is entitled to exercise his constitutional rights, so long as his conduct is not unlawful.”
The decision lifts a lower court ruling that prohibited Paul deParrie from picketing the home of Jude Hanzo, who was the executive director of the All Women’s Health Services clinic in northeast Portland.
DeParrie, a member of the militant anti-abortion group Advocates for Life Ministries, has supported the use of violence against abortion providers. But he said that his goal was not violence.
“It’s a vindication of the First Amendment,” he said. “It’s about time that a court stood up and did what was right.”
Hanzo, who is no longer director of the clinic, declined to comment. But Laura Blue, the acting director of All Women’s Health Services, was outraged.
“We are troubled by the court’s refusal to view Paul deParrie’s conduct toward Jude in the context of a national campaign of terror and violence which already has claimed at least six lives, most recently a police officer in Birmingham,” Blue said in a statement.
DeParrie led two SHAME (Stigmatize, Harangue, Agitate, Mortify and Expose) protests of Hanzo’s Portland home in April 1995 and January 1996.
Pickets passed out handbills that bore Hanzo’s picture, unlisted telephone number and address. The handbills said: “Your neighbor is an abortionist,” and that she “lives comfortably in her home in your neighborhood because she makes good money as an abortionist who kills children.”
In March 1996, Hanzo went to court to obtain an anti-stalking order to keep deParrie away from her home. In May, Multnomah County Circuit Judge Thomas L. Moultrie granted the anti-stalking order.
DeParrie, representing himself, appealed. He argued that the two pickets of Hanzo’s home were constitutionally protected forms of free speech.
The appeals court essentially agreed, saying the demonstration was peaceful and conducted entirely on public sidewalks and streets.
Hanzo’s attorney, Katherine A. McDowell, said her client had not decided whether to appeal.