Kenneth Scott, abortion protester extraordinaire, recently added more firepower to his legal defense: He is now being represented by the Thomas More Society, a national pro-life law firm. In June, Scott and his wife, Jo, were served with a civil complaint by the U.S. Justice Department, alleging that the Scotts had violated the law by blocking access to Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains in Denver.
Jo Scott, who was featured in our 2008 cover story "Planned Parenthood's Scheme to Bust Abortion Protestors," has since settled the case against her, agreeing to a permanent enjoinder against using force or the threat of it to hassle clinic clients -- not to mention $750 payments to two of the people she hassled.
But Kenneth Scott's case continues on. On January 26, his new lawyers (and his old one) will be in court in Denver, fighting a preliminary injunction that seeks to order him to stay 25 feet away from the clinic's entrance until the case is resolved, which could take months.
"The importance of a preliminary injunction proceeding is that it is often a bellweather for how a case will be ultimately decided," says Peter Breen, the executive director and legal counsel for the Chicago-based Thomas More Society. "If (the government attorneys) can't show that they're reasonably likely to win at a preliminary injunction hearing, they're going to have a heck of a time finishing the case."
Kenneth Scott is accused of walking or standing in Planned Parenthood's driveway on numerous occasions to prevent clients from coming or going without confronting him. He's also said to have shouted at clinic staffers and clients, telling them they were going to hell and calling them names such as "murderer" and "baby killer."
The Justice Department alleges that Scott violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (or the FACE Act, for short), which was passed in 1994.
But Breen calls Scott's actions free speech. "We're contending the evidence will show Ken Scott did nothing wrong," Breen says. "Ken Scott remained at all times in the public right-of-way. He was fully in his rights; he merely sought to talk to folks. He didn't throw himself in front of cars ... All he did was wave folks over to try to talk to them."
Breen categorizes Scott's waving-and-talking as "counseling" and "assistance." "Most folks would agree that individuals seeking abortions ought to be offered assistance so they're not pressured or coerced into an abortion choice," he says.
To his knowledge, Breen adds, the Scott case is "the furthest that the attorney general has pushed the FACE Act." He thinks Scott may have been targeted because he "has a long history as an activist and he and the local Planned Parenthood have a bit of a history of going back and forth." He also thinks political forces are at play -- especially with the 2012 presidential election looming.
"This administration is an abortion-promoting administration," Breen says. "Supporters of abortion are the ones who got the president elected." And, presumably, the ones who will vote for him again, Breen says.
Read the complaint against Kenneth and Jo Scott below.
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More from our Follow That Story archives: "Jo Scott, abortion protestor, found guilty of violating clinic bubble law -- again."