Prolife Picketing

Free Speech, Picketing

Right to Life of Michigan holds the health of a democratic society is fostered by the open expression of dissent by its citizenry on matters of justice and social policy. Public protest on matters of conscience is a fundamental part of the American tradition.

To voice objection to abortion and to increase the public’s sensitivity to and awareness of it, as well as where elected officials stand on the abortion issue, are beneficial objectives if conducted in a peaceful manner.
Picketing activities at abortion facilities and at appearances by government officials who espouse a pro-abortion position serve to awaken the public conscience to the presence and devastating consequences of abortion.

Picketing provides opportunities to educate abortion minded clients, those accompanying them, abortion providers and the general public about the value of the unborn child, the potential physical and psychological harm to the mother, as well as positive alternatives to abortion.

The U.S. and Michigan constitutions protect the fundamental free speech right of citizens to peaceably speak, assemble, picket, and distribute leaflets in public places. Right to Life of Michigan supports picketing activities which exercise free speech rights on behalf of the unborn, provided that any statutes or ordinances against trespassing or blocking access to public or private property are not violated. It is also vital that no tactics designed to intimidate or harass abortion clients, those accompanying them, abortion providers, counter demonstrators, or any member of the public are employed. Conscious of the fact that many women who opt for abortion do so under duress or difficult circumstances, Right to Life of Michigan encourages picketing activities which communicate to women considering abortion, a willingness by picketers to assist the woman facing a crisis pregnancy.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld certain regulations on peaceful protests outside clinics. It has endorsed the use of a 15-foot “fixed buffer” zone between protesters and the clinic entrances but rejected a “floating buffer zone” that prohibited demonstrating within 15 feet of any person or vehicle going to or leaving such facilities.

Legislators and the courts have had the difficult task of sorting out these conflicting decisions. In Schenck vs. Pro-choice Network of Western New York, the Supreme Court seems to have struck a balance between the First Amendment rights of protesters and the “right” of women to obtain abortions. The decision leaves demonstrators free to picket, chant, pray and carry signs in full view of people entering and leaving the abortion facility, as long as women seeking abortions are not blocked from entering clinics.

The court’s decision did not make new laws. Instead, it reiterated a series of constitutional principles. People have a right to express their views on public sidewalks or other pedestrian rights of way. However, the right to demonstrate in support of a cause does not include the right to break the law or to harass others seeking to exercise legal rights.

Guidelines, techniques

Prolife picketing and sidewalk counseling are core First Amendment activities. After it has been established that no restrictive injunctions or ordinances apply to the location where a picket is being organized, the following guidelines and techniques can be followed:

Stay on a public sidewalk or walkway and keep moving when picketing

Never trespass on private property

Never block the access of pedestrians or vehicles at a picketing site

Do not force contact with those entering an abortion facility. Literature about alternatives should be made available. However, this information can only be given out when requested

Do not lay picket signs on private property

Singing and speaking as a group is a First Amendment right, but if the noise volume of the group is too loud it could be interpreted as intimidating
Intimidating those entering an abortion clinic or building is against the law

If police should come to a picketing site, be courteous. If you feel your legal rights are being denied by police, ask that a command officer come to the scene and explain how your picketing activities are violating the law

Do not engage in conversation and under no circumstances touch or threaten any heckler or counter demonstrator

Have only your demonstration group’s designated spokesperson represent the group to inquirers


Sending peaceful messages

With these simple words, strong and unified messages will be a “voice” for the unborn:

Abortion Picketing
–We can do better than abortion
–Adoption. One option to abortion
–Alternatives (with a phone number of a local pregnancy care center)
–Abortion is Not Worthy of a Woman

–Civil Rights for the Unborn
–Allow Life. End Abortion
–She’s a Child, Not a Choice
–NO Tax Dollars for Abortion

Political Action Efforts
–A vote for ___________ (pro-abortion candidate’s name) equals tax $ for abortions

–Choose Life, vote for
________________ (prolife candidate’s name)

–Yes Life, NO
_________________ (pro-abortion candidate)

–Protect the unborn, YES to
_________________ (prolife candidate)


© RIGHT TO LIFE OF MICHIGAN, 2340 PORTER ST SW, PO BOX 901, GRAND RAPIDS, MI 49509-0901, (616) 532-2300

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