BREAKING NEWS: One Step Closer to Free Speech in the District of Columbia as a 3-0 Panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals Finds in favor of SFLA & the Frederick Douglass Foundation 

Kristi Hamrick - 15 Aug 2023

From today’s decision: “It is antithetical to a free society for the government to give one side of a debatable public question an advantage in expressing its views to the people …  The government may not play favorites in a public forum—permitting some messages and prohibiting others.”

“It’s very encouraging that there was a unanimous 3-0 decision in favor of the free speech rights of pro-life students, peacefully protesting in our nation’s capital,” said Students for Life of America President Kristan Hawkins. “Viewpoint discrimination is un-American, and, as the case proceeds, we look forward to learning more about how D.C. officials picked winners and losers in their enforcement. Free speech rights you’re afraid to use don’t really exist, and we will keep fighting for the rights of our students to stand up for the preborn and their mothers, and against the predatory abortion industry led by Planned Parenthood.”  

WASHINGTON D.C. (08-15-2023) – As reported by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) who represented Students for Life of America and the Frederick Douglass Foundation in a case linked to events in 2020, today’s decision was “a major free speech ruling” as the “U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the First Amendment rights of two pro-life organizations that sought to chalk a pro-life message on a city sidewalk.” While the D.C. government may appeal the 3-0 decision, ask for a full hearing of the appeals court, or even go to the Supreme Court, it’s likely that FREDERICK DOUGLASS FOUNDATION, INC., ET AL., APPELLANTS  v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, APPELLEE, will proceed. Learn more about the case here.

Warner Depriest arrested by D.C. police

The events as reported in the decision: “In the summer of 2020, thousands of protesters flooded the streets of the District to proclaim ‘Black Lives Matter.’ Over several weeks, the protesters covered streets, sidewalks, and storefronts with paint and chalk. The markings were ubiquitous and in open violation of the District’s defacement ordinance, yet none of the protesters were arrested. During the same summer, District police officers arrested two pro-life advocates in a smaller protest for chalking ‘Black Preborn Lives Matter’ on a public sidewalk. 

“The First Amendment prohibits discrimination on the basis of viewpoint irrespective of the government’s motive. We hold the Foundation has plausibly alleged the District discriminated on the basis of viewpoint in the selective enforcement of its defacement ordinance. We therefore reverse the dismissal of the Foundation’s First Amendment claim and remand for further proceedings.” 

CLICK HERE to read an op-ed at Newsweek from Hawkins and Toni McFadden titled: Black Preborn Lives Matter—And Americans Must be Allowed to Say So | Opinion 

SFLA message on the streets of Baltimore

“Washington officials can’t censor messages they disagree with. The right to free speech is for everyone, and we’re pleased the D.C. Circuit agreed that the Frederick Douglass Foundation and Students for Life should be able to exercise their constitutionally protected freedom to peacefully share their views the same as anyone else,” said ADF Senior Counsel Erin Hawley, vice president of the ADF Center for Life and Regulatory Practice, who argued before the court on behalf of the pro-life organizations. “Every American deserves for their voice to be heard as they engage in important cultural and political issues of the day.” 

Students for Life of America has led a number of aggressive campaigns to confront the disproportionate loss of life among minority communities from direct abortion at Planned Parenthood locations. Learn more here. 

The attempt at pro-life free speech took place in D.C. in front of a Planned Parenthood. Learn more about Planned Parenthood’s corrupt and concerning business practices today in a blog titled: Planned Parenthood Blackjack: 21 Reasons They Are Losers 

For interviews, contact Kristi Hamrick at [email protected]   


Students for Life Action (SFLAction), a 501c4, along with its 501c3 sister organization, Students for Life of America (SFLA), make up the nation’s largest pro-life youth organization and a political and policy operation engaging people of all ages. Together they work to end abortion — the human rights issue of our day — and provide political, legal, and community support for women and their children, born and preborn. Headquartered in Fredericksburg, VA, SFLA has more than 1,300 groups on middle, high school, college, university, medical, and law school campuses in all 50 states. SFLA creates strategy, policy, and programming to connect those most targeted for abortion with people ready to help and builds a framework for political engagement on their behalf. SFLA and SFLAction have more conversations with those most targeted by the abortion industry than any other pro-life outreach in the world, reaching more than 2 million people across social media platforms each week and engaging in approximately 100,000 digital conversations per month. Over more than 16 years, President Kristan Hawkins has grown SFLAction/SFLA into an $18 million organization preparing for a Post-Roe America.  


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