Way back in the fall of 2009, when I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed first-year law student, I noticed that Drexel Law encouraged students to be abortion center escorts as part of its pro bono (volunteer) program. The school website noted the possibility that pro-life sidewalk counselors and protesters might "violate the First Amendment." There's just one problem: it is legally impossible for a private party to violate the First Amendment! Even then, I knew (and my past two and a half years of legal education have confirmed) that the Bill of Rights limits actions by state officials. For example, the First Amendment is violated when police officers arrest pro-lifers who are engaged in peaceful protests. Sidewalk counselors talking to abortion-minded women? Not a First Amendment violation by any stretch of the imagination.
Almost three years later, Drexel still hasn't learned this basic civics lesson (click to enlarge):
Interestingly, another Drexel pro bono project-- the "NLG Legal Observer Program"-- has a much better grasp of the First Amendment. That project encourages students to observe public demonstrations and record "any behavior on the part of law enforcement that appears to restrict demonstrators' ability to express their political views." Just so long as it isn't a pro-life demonstration, apparently.
But getting back to the "Abortion Clinic Escort Service" project: you may have noticed that it is run by LSRJ. "LSRJ" is "Law Students for Reproductive Justice," a pro-abortion advocacy group. Drexel's chapter of LSRJ also encourages law students to help children get abortions behind their parents' backs, through the "Judicial Bypass Intake" project (click to enlarge):
"Pro bono" is short for pro bono publico, which in Latin means "for the public good." Facilitating the deaths of unborn children, intimidating pro-life sidewalk counselors with bogus legal threats, and misinforming students about constitutional law is a far cry from the public good! And it gets worse: a 2010 health inspection found that the Philadelphia Planned Parenthood on Locust Street, which is less than 10 minutes away from the law school, failed to give adequate follow-up care to abortion patients. I wonder: will LSRJ be there for the 15-year-old girl they assisted in getting a secret abortion, when she's in pain and alone in the Planned Parenthood recovery room?
I suggest that we exercise our First Amendment rights by sending polite emails to Karen Pearlman Raab, the law school's Director for Pro Bono and Public Interest Programs, asking her to reform the pro bono program so that it truly advances the public good. Her email address is email@example.com.