Charges Dismissed Against Missoula Woman after Abortion Protest
Marilyn Hatch, a Missoula pro-life advocate, was charged with a misdemeanor after allegedly standing too close to the entrance of the Blue Mountain Women’s Clinic while protesting legal abortion.
The charges against Hatch were dismissed after Thomas More Society attorneys sent a demand letter to the Senior Deputy City Attorney of Missoula pointing out that the ordinance the charges were based upon is unconstitutional.
Attorney Matt Heffron spoke to KGVO News after the charges against Hatch were dismissed.
“She was standing there minding her own business, and not too far from the gate to the entrance of the parking lot of the Blue Mountain Clinic there in Missoula,” said Heffron. “And that's all she was doing. Basically, she held a sign and if anyone would come by want to talk she did that. At one point, one of the workers of the clinic opened the gate and approached her but Marilyn didn't approach, but the clinic worker came closer to Marilyn.”
Heffron described what happened next.
“The police officer came back and gave her a citation that she was being charged with a misdemeanor crime for having violated an almost never used statute in the Montana statute books. It's section 45-8-110,” he said.
Heffron said the statute violated the U. S. Constitution.
“It’s what’s known in Constitutional law as a ‘buffer zone’, and it's clearly unconstitutional to apply this statute that way,” he said. “How do we know it's clearly unconstitutional? Because there's already been a Supreme Court case McCullen v. Coakley, which held that if you have a buffer zone, meaning no one can enter it within 35 feet in that case, that's unconstitutional. Well, here we have a Montana statute applied as it made a 36 foot buffer zone. And that's, as I say, under McCullen v. Coakley, that's already been held to be unconstitutional.”
Heffron said the Thomas More Society couldn’t get a response from the Missoula City Attorney’s office, so they contacted local attorney Quentin Rhoades.
“We hired a real good attorney there in Missoula named Quentin Rhoades and he tried to get in touch with them. He was also having trouble getting in touch, and then he filed a motion to dismiss, which basically just put our letter into a motion. And after that, apparently it got the attention of someone down there because they voluntarily dismissed the case.”
Hatch has been a regular visitor to the area near the Blue Mountain Clinic as she exercises her Constitutional right to protest abortion.
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