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Case dismissed: Kansas court throws out unfounded charges against pro-life advocate

Police had arrested woman legally sharing message near abortion clinic

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A judge dismissed criminal charges Wednesday against a pro-life woman arrested in the driveway of a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic for allegedly blocking traffic entering and leaving its parking lot. The city alleged that a police officer issued an order to Carrie Kafka prior to her arrest to cease her activities, but the officer stated at trial that he observed no wrongdoing by Kafka and did not order her to cease her activities. Video evidence from the day of the arrest confirms Kafka never prevented vehicles from accessing the clinic.

“Pro-life advocates shouldn’t be arrested on trumped-up charges and denied their free speech rights,” said ADF Litigation Counsel Daniel Blomberg. “We are pleased that the court dismissed the charges against Ms. Kafka so she can once again exercise her First Amendment rights.”

Nearly every Friday and Saturday for several years, without incident, pro-life advocates have stood on a public sidewalk next to a Planned Parenthood parking lot to share information with women seeking or considering abortions when they pulled into the driveway. Kafka, an employee of the Kansas City Catholic Diocese, has participated personally on a monthly basis for over a year. Being careful not to trespass or obstruct traffic from entering or exiting the clinic, Kafka peacefully offered pregnant women educational material to help them make an informed choice--only interacting with those willfully stopping their cars in the driveway and inviting dialogue.

In March, Kafka was arrested without warning by Overland Park Police for criminal trespass, even though she never entered onto Planned Parenthood property. Because of this fact, the charge was quickly changed to allege that Kafka obstructed vehicles entering and leaving the parking lot. Security video from the scene shows that Kafka never entered private property and that she never prevented vehicles from entering or exiting the clinic, but in fact encouraged drivers to move on when vehicles approached from behind.

At the trial Wednesday, Blomberg argued that officers should not have arrested Kafka because she never violated the ordinance and, before citing and arresting her, city police failed to first order Kafka to cease her conduct and leave, which the ordinance clearly requires. The city interpreted the ordinance to mean that any presence in public roads, sidewalks, or driveways that had the potential to delay access amounted to an illegal obstruction. Such an interpretation, however, would outlaw a variety of acceptable and legal activities, from slow-moving pedestrians to any sort of free speech activity.

Blomberg had also filed a motion to dismiss prior to trial that challenged the unconstitutional vagueness of the ordinance’s language. The Overland Park Municipal Court did not comment on the constitutionality of the ordinance but agreed that Kafka should not have been arrested and dismissed the charges against her in City of Overland Park v. Kafka. ADF attorneys are considering their options with regard to a possible federal lawsuit that would challenge the city ordinance.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.