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DOJ Lawyers File Suit Against Abortion-Rights Protester for Blocking Entrance to D.C. Clinic

DOJ Lawyers File Suit Against Abortion-Rights Protester for Blocking Entrance to D.C. Clinic

April 6, 2012 — Lawyers from the Department of Justice have sued a man who allegedly physically blocked a woman from entering a Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington, D.C., last January, AP/NPR reports. DOJ sued 80-year-old Dick Retta under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, which makes it unlawful to intimidate or interfere with someone seeking reproductive health care services.

In court documents, DOJ lawyers say Retta routinely follows patients as they enter the building and shouts at them as the clinic door closes. Lawyers say that during the incident last January, Retta weaved in front of a woman as she tried to walk around him. Court documents note that several people had to help the woman get inside the clinic and that Retta made the experience "unreasonably difficult and hazardous," according to AP/NPR.

Retta routinely spends three days a week outside a Planned Parenthood clinic near the White House, praying and trying to give women one of several fliers with antiabortion-rights messages. If the woman decides to leave the clinic property without going in, Retta gives her a pair of baby booties. Government lawyers have called Retta one of the "most vocal and aggressive anti-abortion protestors" outside the clinic.

DOJ has requested that Retta be fined and prohibited from standing within 20 feet of the clinic's outside gate. The DOJ and a spokesperson for the Planned Parenthood facility declined to comment on the case. DOJ in a statement said, "We uphold the First Amendment right to protest while also upholding the law prohibiting intentional interference with reproductive health services" (Gresko, AP/NPR, 4/4).