The Associated Press January 21, 2005

As reported in the NEPA News - Northeast Pennsylvania's Largest News Team

AP State News

Abortion Protesters Want Allentown
Officials Held In Contempt

Abortion opponents who contend city officials have repeatedly violated a federal judge's order to allow picketing outside a clinic have asked the judge to hold the city in contempt of court.

Lawyers for the protesters asked U.S. District Judge James McGirr Kelly to fine the mayor, the police chief and the assistant chief $1,000 a day and consider jailing them if police continue to restrict picketing outside the Allentown Women's Center.

The protesters' lawyers, Denis Brenan and Christopher Ferrara, said protesters have been cited 33 times since Kelly's August 2004 ruling, and, except for one pending case, all citations have been thrown out by the courts.

But a lawyer for the city, Thomas Anewalt, said police are confused because of ambiguities in Kelly's ruling. The judge ruled that protesters are allowed to demonstrate on the street where the clinic's entrance is as long as they do so on the "public walkways" without blocking the entrance, the parking lot or traffic. But Anewalt said since there are no sidewalks outside the main entrance, police do not know where the "public walkways" are.

"The cops really don't know what to do," Anewalt said. "They're just flabbergasted."

Kathleen Teay, one of several protesters who filed written statements for the court, had a different view of the police actions.

"I cannot distribute literature, speak to expectant mothers or show them what babies in the womb look like if I am forced to 'keep moving,' walk around the block and, as of Dec. 16, stay off Keats Street altogether," Teay wrote.

She wrote that a pregnant woman who had been planning to get an abortion changed her mind in one case.

"A 'save' like this will not be possible under the threats and restrictions defendants keep trying to impose on our First Amendment rights," Teay wrote.