JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A devout Catholic and fervent life advocate, Trudy Perez-Poveda, remains unbowed despite a violent assault outside a Florida abortion office.
With help from pro-life law firm Thomas More Society (TMS), Perez-Poveda and her Family for LIFE group succeeded in defending the First Amendment rights of pro-life sidewalk counselors. On March 25, life advocates celebrated the victory with a Eucharistic procession and Mass not far from an abortion center.
TMS lead litigator Matt Heffron told Church Militant in an interview that success was met with suffering. According to Heffron, while meeting with people outside "A Woman's Choice" abortion office in Jacksonville, Florida on March 23, a woman emerged from the abortion clinic and "knocked her flat on her back."
The assault was captured on video, and police soon arrived to arrest the accused assailant. Heffron remarked, "It's another wonder that Trudy wasn't seriously hurt. She went down hard on the pavement."
Heffron remarked to Church Militant that Trudy "is maybe a little shy in her manner but is not put off easily."
Days later, and before Perez-Poveda recovered fully, she was silently followed by a large man wearing a mask and a cape as she walked outside the clinic. Nevertheless, she has been undaunted by the harassment.
In an interview with Church Militant, Heffron said that Perez-Poveda's life is a testament to faith, courage and perseverance:
It's important to persevere in every instance that we can because that's how we are going to win the war, quite honestly. The forces of evil that are behind abortion keep wanting this to go away, but it hasn't gone away for more than 40 years. And it's not going away because of people like Trudy and the people of Family for LIFE.
According to a release from TMS, Perez-Poveda and members of Family for LIFE had been prohibited by local police for 12 years from approaching any closer than a block from A Woman's Choice. In an interview, Heffron told Church Militant that the abortuary is in an office park that features a private driveway.
For years, local law enforcement confined pro-life sidewalk counselors to the busy street at the corner where the private drive begins. Heffron said this was too far away for the group to counsel women on life-affirming alternatives to abortion.
One year ago, Perez-Poveda went online to search public documents about the office park. She found the warranty deed for the abortion clinic, which indicated that there was a nonexclusive easement on the property. It was thereafter that Perez-Poveda sought counsel from TMS to determine further steps. After the pro-life law firm conducted extensive research, it hired capable real-estate attorneys and litigators from a Jacksonville law firm to develop various legal strategies.
TMS also helped the pro-life group with another obstacle: For three years, a Jacksonville city official refused to respond to open-records requests from Family for LIFE soliciting information about ambulances that had responded to calls from the abortuary. To help the pro-life group, TMS assisted with the open-records requests.
Eventually, TMS was, without recourse to a lawsuit, able to obtain the information Family for LIFE requested. Heffron told Church Militant that avoiding a lawsuit saved local taxpayers the cost of defending the city.
Once an online search revealed the nonexclusive easement, Heffron said that it was providential that a space opened for rent immediately across the driveway from the abortion business. In the TMS press release, Heffron was quoted, saying, "Of course, anyone renting in that business park would be allowed to use the easement to access their business. It was a rock-solid solution. Our Jacksonville attorneys assisted Family for LIFE with the legal aspects and paperwork to get it done." Family for LIFE is now located just across the driveway from the abortuary, thus allowing pro-life advocates to pray and offer alternatives to abortion right in front of the Jacksonville abortion mill.
But soon after Family for LIFE was in its new office this year, off-duty police officers working as private security for the abortuary threatened pro-lifers with citations and arrest. Attorneys from TMS were called in to educate the officers about Florida law and U.S. constitutional guarantees and how potential violations were involved.
Heffron told Church Militant that many law enforcement officers will misinterpret or misrepresent laws regarding sidewalk counseling and free speech in favor of abortion clinics. He said it is important for life advocates to know the law and insist on exercising their rights.
On March 25, Family for LIFE hosted a rally and Eucharistic procession outside of A Women's Choice of Jacksonville, which preceded the celebration of a Mass across the street. About 75 people participated. During the Mass, a bio-cycle truck showed up at the abortion business to remove the remains of babies killed over the previous week. According to TMS, people attending the Mass remarked that it would serve as a requiem for the murdered children.
The TMS release quoted Perez-Poveda as saying, "I am still in the clouds, still trying to digest that we actually just celebrated an outdoor Mass right across the driveway from the abortion clinic." She thanks TMS for helping the Mass become a reality, which happened on the feast day of the Conception of Jesus.
Heffron, a seasoned litigator and former assistant U.S. attorney, said, "This is a tribute to the perseverance of Trudy Perez-Poveda and Family for LIFE ... and the providence of God." For now, Family for LIFE's advocacy will continue at the site, while more outdoor Masses are planned for the coming months.