In mid-May, the National Legal Foundation and Founding Freedoms Law Center—the Family Foundation’s litigation arm—defended Ms. Cheryl (Cheri) Britt’s constitutional rights. A Virginia Beach police officer improperly issued Ms. Britt a criminal citation at the beginning of April when she refused to leave the public sidewalk near a Planned Parenthood facility. After the NLF and Founding Freedoms Law Center supported Ms. Britt and acted on her behalf, the pro-life community experienced a victory: Ms. Britt’s charges were dropped.
Cheri is an employee of Hope 4 Life, a nonprofit organization that offers free sonograms and other free services to women entering abortion clinics. These services allow women free information they may wish to consider before deciding to have an abortion. Hope 4 Life also operates mobile vehicles that have been converted to a safe place where sonograms are performed. On April 1, just like she has done for years, Cheri stood on the public sidewalk outside of a Planned Parenthood facility with her vehicle, offering Hope 4 Life’s services to women. Someone from the Planned Parenthood facility called the Virginia Beach Police Department, complaining that Cheri was violating the Governor’s executive orders concerning COVID-19. When the officers arrived, they asked Cheri to leave the area. When she did not acquiesce, an officer issued her a criminal citation, stating that she had failed to comply with the Governor’s Executive Order 55.
That is when NLF and Founding Freedoms Law Center stepped in. We sent a letter to the Deputy City Attorney, explaining that Ms. Britt had not violated the Executive Order and was indeed abiding by the law. We explained that only paragraphs one and seven of the Order applied to the situation. Paragraph one permits individuals to leave their residence in order to travel to and from work and is omitted from the criminal sanctions of the order. Furthermore, paragraph seven provides an exemption for Cheri’s work. It states that the Executive Order shall not limit any provision of healthcare medical services and essential services for low-income residents. Cheri’s services are thus exempt from the enforcement of Executive Order 55. Her services qualify as essential under the Executive Order, especially since abortion clinics’ services are considered to be essential.
As our letter explains, “Ms. Britt’s free speech rights were infringed by the Virginia Beach Police Department . . . , as were her rights to free exercise of religion . . . and her right to equal protection.” Davids respectfully requested that the City drop the charges against Ms. Britt since her actions on April 1 were completely lawful. A few days later, the Deputy Attorney General informed the NLF and Founding Freedoms Law Center that the charges had been dropped.
Before confronted by the policemen on April 1, Ms. Britt counseled a young woman who was entering Planned Parenthood. The woman received a sonogram through Hope 4 Life’s services, learned that she was carrying twins, and decided to keep her babies. The organization is now supplying her support and baby supplies. Because of the NLF and Founding Freedoms Law Center’s support, Ms. Britt may continue to minister to women who are considering abortions during the governor’s coronavirus restrictions and will hopefully be able to save many more lives.