Court Stops Letitia James from Moving Pro-Life Case to Manhattan

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A court rejected New York Attorney General Letitia James’ request to transfer her lawsuit against a pro-life organization from upstate New York to Manhattan last Tuesday. This lawsuit follows the action of Heartbeat International suing James, claiming she targeted pregnancy help centers for political reasons.

James, known for using the justice system against pro-life advocates, is pursuing legal action against Heartbeat International and several related pregnancy help centers. She claims these organizations made “false and misleading statements” about abortion pill reversal (APR), a process intending to counteract the effects of mifepristone, the first of two pills in a chemical abortion. Though James states APR lacks FDA approval and support from certain medical bodies, numerous organizations, experts, and studies support its efficacy for women reconsidering chemical abortion. James argues that sharing such information constitutes fraud and false advertising under state law.

Both sides agreed to merge the competing lawsuits. Heartbeat International chose to file for consolidation in upstate Monroe County, where the initial suit was filed, considering it a logical choice since most involved pro-life organizations are based upstate. Additionally, James’ main office is in Albany, with another office near the Monroe County courthouse.

Nevertheless, James attempted to transfer the case from Monroe County to Manhattan, allegedly to find a pro-abortion jurisdiction. Heartbeat International’s attorneys criticized James’ request in their court filing, asserting:

Instead of accepting this reasonable compromise, [James] seeks to halt this ongoing case to consolidate it with her later-filed case in New York County, an inconvenient (and costly) venue, where none of the Plaintiffs reside. [James’s] tactics resemble blatant forum shopping: New York County is irrelevant to this controversy or the Plaintiffs. [James] acknowledges that most Plaintiffs are upstate. Furthermore, even [James] is not primarily based in New York County, as the Appellate Division has stated the Attorney General’s main offices are in Albany, not Manhattan.

On May 24, New York Supreme Court Justice Sam Valleriani issued an order denying James’ attempt to relocate the case to Manhattan. The lawsuits will be combined and heard in Monroe County.

Peter Breen, Executive Vice President & Head of Litigation at the Thomas More Society, which represents Heartbeat International and the implicated pregnancy help centers, considers this decision a victory over James.

“For the past month, Letitia James has tried to illegally intimidate and harass New York’s pregnancy help organizations into silence, threatening them with lawsuits for sharing truthful information about Abortion Pill Reversal… Instead of agreeing to a convenient venue, James sued these charitable organizations in Manhattan, even though none are based there,” Breen said. “We are pleased the Monroe County court agreed the cases should be heard in Rochester, the ‘most fair, appropriate and logistically convenient venue,’ not Manhattan, which is unrelated to the case.”

Monroe Harless
Monroe Harless
Intern. Monroe is a recent graduate of the University of Georgia with degrees in journalism and political science.

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