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The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals is determining whether Washington, D.C. discriminated against pro-life viewpoints after police arrested two pro-life advocates for writing “Black Pre-Born Lives Matter” in washable chalk on the sidewalk outside a Planned Parenthood facility in 2020.
Americans United for Life filed a friend-of-the court brief, highlighting how Washington, D.C. has taken an anti-life stance in the abortion debate and the district court failed to properly consider factual allegations of D.C.’s discriminatory intent and municipal liability.
At this early stage of litigation, the plaintiffs only need to plausibly allege viewpoint discrimination. This is a low standard. Yet in dismissing the case, the district court disregarded many of plaintiffs’ allegations, ignoring key facts such as how D.C. police gave oral pre-approval for a pro-life mural painting, but government officials subsequently ordered police to halt the demonstrators’ painting while permitting other groups to paint murals. At the same time, D.C. officials have a history of making openly anti-life remarks in support of D.C.’s radical abortion policy. As Americans United for Life states in its brief, “The D.C. government has picked a side in the abortion debate. That does not, however, allow it to purposely squelch dissenting views.” Given the alleged facts, the pro-life advocates have plausibly alleged D.C. discriminated against their pro-life viewpoint.
“Free speech is a fundamental constitutional right,” states Natalie Hejran, AUL Staff Counsel. “We are a country of diverse backgrounds and opinions. We are free to disagree over the morality and ethics of contentious issues, including abortion. However, the government may not suppress pro-life viewpoints and at the same time favor anti-life messages. That is pro-life viewpoint discrimination, which unconstitutionally places the government in control over free speech about abortion.”