By Tina Korbe – July 21, 2011
Those who know Dick Retta describe him as a peaceful, prayerful man, who regards his sidewalk counseling outside the Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington as a ministry. Retta even conducts weekend training sessions to encourage other pro-life advocates to stand outside the facility to offer words of hope, encouragement and possibility to the young women who come and go from the abortion center. At these training sessions, one attendee says, he specifically emphasizes that the point of sidewalk counseling is not to block access, but, instead, to remind pregnant women that they do, in fact, have a choice other than abortion — and to offer post-abortion healing, as well, as few abortion centers prepare women for all of the possible emotional consequences of their decision.
But perhaps nothing attests to Retta’s warm and compassionate nature so much as the influence he has been able to have on the women he counsels as he walks side-by-side with them. Some estimate that, over the past 14 years or so, Retta’s words have resulted in more than 1,000 “saves,” what members of the pro-life movement call the change of heart that leads a pregnant mother to choose to have her child.
Retta also patiently endures the antipathy of those who aren’t receptive to his message. Just last week, by one account, a woman entering the clinic pepper-sprayed Retta. Yet, Retta persists in his work because he’s seen what a positive difference it makes.
In a short video, Peter Shinn of Pro-Life Unity documented one of Retta’s days, in which six women decided not to abort because of the information and assistance he was able to provide.
“They go in and they’re kind of sullen in what they’re doing, and I’m sure there’s a lot of sorrow there,” Retta says in the video. “But when they change their mind, they’re smiling, they’re happy about it and they’re willing to talk to us.”
Yet, this man, the Department of Justice describes as “among the most vocal and aggressive anti-abortion protesters outside the Clinic.” In fact, the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ has brought a lawsuit against Retta, alleging that he has repeatedly violated the Freedom of Access to Clinic Act, obstructing entrance to the clinic on at least one occasion. The complaint objects to Retta “walk[ing] very closely beside patients” and says he yells at them.
Retta was not available for comment when I contacted him by phone, but he reportedly was shocked at the allegations.
When LifeSiteNews.com contacted Retta for comment today, the shocked veteran pro-life activist said that he was unaware that the lawsuit had been filed against him, and that he had not been informed by the Department of Justice. He is seeking legal counsel before making a public statement. …
The Department of Justice is demanding that Retta be fined $10,000, that a permanent 20 foot bubble zone be placed around the clinic barring pro-lifers, and that Retta pay an additional fine of $15,000 in equal parts to the three ‘victims’ of his actions, which the DOJ argues were contrary to the Freedom of Access to Clinic Act (FACE).
A Department of Justice that can’t find time to defend the Defense of Marriage Act somehow has time to bring a lawsuit against a 70+ year-old man who simply seeks to pass out flyers and speak a few kind words to women in need of them? It’s hard to think this has nothing to do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars Retta has cost Planned Parenthood.
Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, describes the DOJ’s justification for the suit this way:
“Individuals who seek to obtain or provide reproductive health services have the right to do so without encountering hazardous physical obstructions. We will continue to aggressively enforce FACE against those who seek to violate the rights of their fellow Americans to safely provide or obtain such services.”
Retta is a “hazardous” physical obstruction? The best the complaint could offer is that, once, he accidentally stepped on a patient’s shoe and broke a shoe strap.
Perez just happens to be the same Perez who testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about the DOJ’s decision to completely drop charges against the New Black Panthers who engaged in voter intimidation a couple years ago. Perhaps not prosecuting important cases like that one is what frees the DOJ up to pursue cases like this one.
How beautiful would it be if the many women Retta has helped would step forward to help him now?